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WiMax starts to bloom

Noel Kirkaldy, Director of Wireless Broadband, MotorolaThe Middle East market has also witnessed an increased adoption of the technology, especially in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. WiMax is expected to play a crucial role in the region as mobile data traffic rapidly grows in the coming years and potentially strains existing 3G networks.

“WiMax is emerging as a competing ‘all data’ technology for mobile operators. Unlike the traditional GSM networks, the WiMax network offers a simplified ‘all Ethernet’ architecture, lower cost and simpler devices, but is still fully capable of supporting all of the same services, including voice. This promise also extends to the functions of the end user devices, which can offer both business, as well as consumer services, providing users with more options and better prices,” says Vinay Rathore, Senior Marketing Director, Ciena.

Noel Kirkaldy, Director of Wireless Broadband, Motorola, says there is a strong demand for WiMax solutions in the Middle East. “We will see continues momentum for WiMax from existing their networks, by increasing coverage in urban areas and extending their services into suburban and rural areas. We also expect to see more Greenfield operators to enter the market as regulators auction additional frequency spectrum.”

For businesses, there are several good reasons to consider WiMax for their future wireless network needs. “WiMAX caters to both enterprise and retail customers. As this technology is able to manage QOS, it enables the operators to offer service level agreements. It also provides enterprise features enabling operators to provide value added services like Layer 2 / Layer 3 VPNs and VLAN tagging. Outdoor and USB CPE profiles are ideal for enterprise applications for fixed, nomadic and mobile applications for its employees,” says Dharminder Chanana, Director of WiMAX Business Development for Harris Stratex Networks.

Mobile WiMax is also beginning to catch the attention of CIOs as another, better way of networking the mobile workforce. Instead of worrying over dozens of 802.11 access points, their wiring and power needs, you may need to install one a single mobile WiMax AP.

With WiMax providing speeds up to 4mbps, a huge boost over current 3G cellular technologies, and close to what businesses provider within their internal networks, CIOs can start thinking about the apps they could deliver to uses and customers outside the firewall.

Because WiMax is all IP technology, there are none of the ‘walled garden’ limitations common in today’s cellular networks that let carriers control what application are available and what they can do. Thus, IT can treat a WiMax network as if it were the Internet in terms of having control over the application it deploys and their functionality.

WiMax proponents also note that it can replace T1 lines that now connect remote offices. WiMax can potentially give IT managers a high-speed network service to remote offices at a lover cost than T1 lines, which are typically also more difficult to manage.

Broad vendor support is another attraction. Mobile WiMAX is a new technology, but there's nothing so cutting edge about it that it will make you bleed IT money as you install it. This wireless technology has support from the big boys of computing: Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Nokia and more than a hundred other major vendors.

“More and more enterprise users are moving to WiMAX technology, particularly in Middle Eastern markets, for its key benefits including the fact that the technology is readily available today. Some of the usages seen are due to the nature of WiMAX operators’ need to focus on alternative market solutions or strategies to the incumbent operators,” says Kirklady.

Will it make it Wi-Fi obsolete? So with all these benefits and flexibility, why can’t Wi-Max replace Wi-Fi? Perhaps one obstacle that needs to be overcome before WiMax is acceptable to an IT manager is the simple fact thatWiMax is often confused with Wi-Fi. But only the names are similar. For example, WiMax is 100 percent IP, whereas Wi-Fi is not. There are major differences between two. “These two different but complementary technologies. WiMAX uses licensed spectrum and covers larger area like cellular networks. WiFi, on the other hand, uses unlicensed spectrum and covers small area. WiFi is good technology to extend range of WiMAX to indoor. Many of the WiMAX CPEs have built-in WiFi for the laptops to connect wirelessly to the CPEs,” says Chanana.

Agrees Kirkaldy: . “Wi-Fi will be complementary to WiMAX technologies and eventually these two technologies will grow into much-needed components of the wireless network. WiMAX will be able to deliver wireless coverage across larger areas connecting smaller WLAN systems, while Wi-Fi will provide wireless access to small mobile devices within these WLAN networks. However, it is certain that WIMAX will not replace Wi-Fi, but instead they will complement each other dependent on market needs.”

WiMax has also been in development for about 15 years, giving it the edge over technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution), the 3G successor whose standard has only recently been approved. The 802.16d “fixed wireless” WiMax standard was finalized in 2005; the 802.16e mobile version was finalized in 2005 as well.

WiMax has become a telecom-grade, high-performance, wide-area wireless network, while its broadband wireless competition is only now developing the test equipment. “LTE offers a lot of promise, but also brings a massive expense for mobile operators. The real problem, however, is the uncertainty of when and where mobile operators will upgrade their networks to support LTE. Meanwhile, WiMax is inherently a broadband technology which can compete with LTE today, meaning it has the lead in terms of real world experience,” sums up Rathore.

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