WiMAX

November 30, 2008

I recently attended an IEEE meeting where the presentation was about WiMAX.

Most of it was too technical for me to really follow (this was a meeting of telecom geeks) but I did learn there are two current WiMAX standards. The old standard is fixed wireless station with no handoff, much like long-range WiFi. Apparently it is very popular in the developing world because the technology is now cheap and easy to deploy, certainly a lot cheaper than fixed copper wire. It can carry fixed station VOIP as well of course.

The new standard is mobile station, it can hand off sessions from one station to the next like a cellphone. Today it only supports data but voice calls will be added so it could in theory replace current cellphone technology completely. It is compatible with the old standard, new equipment will connect to the old fixed stations.

Several companies, most notably Intel, have chipsets on the new standard. The next Centrino chipset will have WiMAX so many notebooks will have WiMAX standard within a year or so. Some chipsets are already available in Europe and Asia, there are already WiMAX USB keys, WiMAX notebooks, and even a WiMAX handheld game console in Asia. Imagine a WiMAX enabled Nintendo GameBoy.

Interestingly, the “WiMAX” deployed here by Rogers and Bell is an older non-standard version. It won’t work with the new chipsets so anyone here buying one of the new WiMAX notebooks will be *disappointed*.  The presenter was an American, he didn’t know if Rogers or Bell plan to upgrade to the real WiMAX standard.