WiMAX promised a lot when it launched, but has been fairly slow to show any sort of mainstream adoption. However, the WiMAX Forum seems undeterred and is pressing on with WiMAX 2, which should be finalised soon.
Not only can WiMAX provide high-speed ‘last-mile' internet connections to the home but it is one of the standards competing to be used in 4G mobile phones. However, the current standard is limited to a maximum of 40Mbps.
The other 4G-standard is LTE, which has seen some success in the US. Mobile carrier Sprint has recently launched several phones that take advantage of the next-generation networks that have been deployed in several cities.
WiMAX 2, also called IEEE 802.16m will massively increase the maximum speed up to a theoretical 1Gbps. Though the WiMAX Forum is expecting normal speeds to be closer to 100Mbps for mobile usage, this still represents a sizable increase. Despite the speed boost, though, the range of the equipment will stay the same, at around 31 square miles for each access point.
Coming soon to a tower near you?
While it might seem a little counter productive to start preparing a new standard while the existing one is still in its infancy, WiMAX 2 will be completely backward compatible with existing WiMAX networks. Not only should this mean that upgrades are relatively inexpensive, but users should see minimal disruption when moving between towers using the two standards.
The current timeline points to WiMAX 2 being formalised sometime in November with devices being given the seal of approval next year. That should mean that service providers and ISPs can start to rollout WiMAX 2 infrastructure starting in 2012.
Unfortunately, this doesn't mean a great deal to those in the UK. With no carriers willing to outline plans for the deployment of 4G networks, they will have plenty of time to consider the virtues of the new standard.