Guest post by James Helliwell.
Would you like an Internet connection that’s always on, whether you’re at home or on the go? It’s already here in many cities across the US, thanks to WiMax. The US Department of Agriculture recently awarded over $504 million in stimulus funds to 40 companies who are planning to broadband to rural areas using WiMax.
So, is WiMax the first 4G technology? That’s a big Yes, according to the WiMax Forum, an industry association set up to promote the technology. But the definition of a “G,” or generation of wireless technology, is up to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organization. 1G was defined in 1981, and successors have followed each decade since. 4G is set to arrive in 2011, right on schedule.
WiMax is here already. Its official name is IEEE 802.16, meaning that the standard is defined by the 802.16 Workgroup of the 802 LAN/MAN (Local Area Networks / Metropolitan Area Networks) Standards Committee of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The 802 group of standards includes things like Ethernet (802.3), Audio/Video Bridging (802.1AS and 802.1Qat)), WiFi (802.11) and of course WiMax (802.16).
Although the currently operating version of WiMax falls a little short of the ITU’s requirements for 4G certification, the next iteration of WiMax, 802.16m or WiMax-Advanced, will deliver up to 1 Gigabit per second of data and will be certified by the ITU as a 4G technology. So will LTE-Advanced, which is a standard that is maintained and updated by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, an alliance of cellular phone providers.
Is there a reason to choose WiMax over LTE-Advanced? Not really. Your choice is more likely to be based on things like what’s available in your area. Some cellular phone companies are deploying WiMax, others are bringing on LTE (which, by the way, stands for Long Term Evolution). Both will update their transmission sites to the Advanced versions of these technologies, um, “soon.” Standards have to be ratified, parts engineered, new product revisions built and then installed in the field.
So don’t hold your breath, but do get ready for a single broadband plan that will cover your home and many places you visit outside your home. This plan will let you use a cellular phone, a smart phone, a wireless reading device such as mobile broadband, a laptop, or perhaps all of the above. Data rates will accommodate streaming video, gaming, telepresence, remote recording and production of high-sample-rate, high-bit-depth audio, and other high-bandwidth applications.
Most WiMax and LTE-Advanced coverage will be in urban areas, at least at the beginning. But the Department of Agriculture isn’t the only funding source to recognize that these technologies are a great solution for the last mile of Internet service in rural areas, where it’s just not cost-effective to pull fiber optic cable to isolated homes, or upgrade aging copper telephone wire. The wired dairy barn? The Internet-enabled tractor? They’re just around the corner, thanks to wireless data evolution.
This was a guest post by James Helliwell from London, UK – James is active in the promotion of wireless internet technologies for The broadband expert group. James is an active writer so look out for more posts.