WiMAX vs CDMA/OFDM Roundup

Recently I read a very interesting article about Qualcomm’s attempt to gun out WiMAX. It is a surprise that a company would attempt to single handedly take on what the rest of the planet is promising to be the future of wireless communications. We’ve been hearing about this WiMAX for months and months now and none of it has seen the light of day yet. That is except for the Unwired’s testbeds in Australia. WiMAX is supposed to be the answer to all our wireless problems. It is hyped to give consumers high speed mobile access to the internet, or just any other IP network. It is said to be the big brother of Wifi - that is current WiFi’s performance and coverage multiplied by a 2 digit figure. The standard is developed and looked after by non other than Intel, having brought about almost all major chip manufacturers and telecos to the table, Intel is promising WiMAX to be as common place as the PC itself. Impressive specs, and nice idea everyone says. But it ain’t here yet.

WiMAX is developed as two standards. 802.16d is the fixed wireless standard, which has been established and finalized, and manufacturers such as Motorola and Navini have already demonstrated base stations and customer premise equipments. 802.16e is supposed to become the mobile WiMAX (imagine high speed WiFi, with coverage like your average GSM provider) but it is not yet a standard, and there ain’t any demonstrations, and critics like Qualcomm would rather not put their money on it. Their argument is very logical. They say that what 802.16e attempts to do is possible even today. Not just possible, it has already been done so.

There is CDMA2000 or 1x EV-DO, people are already getting 2Mbps internet connections on their phones and watching streaming video on them. More to that, 802.16e is to be bound to the 3.5Ghz spectrum. When it comes to urban landscapes, such bands perform at a mark lower than what we call “worse”. The signal can’t even pass through 3 walls. With such arguments, and the rapid progress of other standards such as 1x EV-DO, critics say that 802.16e might die in the womb. As for 802.16d, what it can do was possible years ago, and was done so as well. Fixed wireless services are found everywhere on the planet including here in our town, and they run very well on the 2.4Ghz spectrum and the 5Ghz spectrum, the latter supporting upto 10Mbps. So what is up with WiMAX? Thats all for now, it might be dead meat in the making, or Intel’s edge with the PC’s might just make it yet another cannibal.

Posted November 26th, 2005 in category hardware, internet.