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WiMAX is an acronym for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. WiMAX is an alternative to conventional DSL and cable Internet because no cabling is needed. It’s an alternative to WiFi because it has a much greater coverage area.

Essentially WiMAX is a cloud of connectivity to a large area using just a few base stations. WiMAX networks require access points approximately every two square miles for urban areas (one every six miles for rural areas). Compare this to the 24 to 40 access points per square mile for urban WiFi and you’ll quickly understand the benefits of WiMAX.

Typical WiMAX System

A typical WiMAX System starts with a base station. This station has a WiMAX transmission tower. Most WiMAX base stations can cover up to a 30 mile radius (50 km) which means you could be 30 miles away and still be able to access the Internet or your internal computers/servers with a WiMAX receiver. A WiMAX receiver could be a standalone box (receiver and antenna) or a PCMCIA card that fits into your computer.

Where WiMAX gets really useful is when you begin to connect several WiMAX base stations together (with backhaul microwave links). This means roaming WiMAX subscribers can access the various base stations so they can travel more distance. This is similar to the roaming connectivity of your cellular phone.

Crystal Communications has installed WiMAX technology for municipalities and corporations who have multiple offices around town.

For example, say your company has a warehouse and 10 offices strategically scattered across the Houston metropolitan area. Each location has a need to connect to the company’s main computer. Connectivity via cabling is an option, but a very expensive option. Add in technicians or salespeople traveling around the metro area and reliably accessing the company’s main computer becomes a real challenge. This is where a WiMAX system works beautifully. The main computer site becomes the main WiMAX base station. Crystal Communications would then install additional WiMAX base stations at strategic locations across the city. All the signals would connect together to essentially create one long wireless connection to each base. Each office would have a WiMAX receiver, and each traveling technician and salesperson a PCMCIA card in their computer, so everyone would have access to the main computer.

Important Wireless MAN IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX) Specifications

Range: 30-mile (50-km) radius from base station
Speed: Up to 70 megabits per second
Non-Line-of-sight (NLoS) between user and base station
Frequency bands: 2 to 11 GHz and 10 to 66 GHz (licensed and unlicensed bands)
Defines both the MAC and PHY layers and allows multiple PHY layer specifications.
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For governments, WiMAX can be an exceptional disaster recovery aid. During situations like Hurricane Ike and Katrina, several emergency offices would be quickly set up all over town. WiMAX could be deployed immediately and each temporary office would have access to headquarters, thereby facilitating a smooth and timely recovery.
WiMAX Empowers Social Care and Economic Growth
Broadband connectivity and voice services offered by WiMAX are being utilized for social care programs such as e-Health and e-Learning, and for fueling economic growth. Nationwide WiMAX networks offering Internet broadband access, telephone and value added services are supporting SME entrepreneurship, providing access to remote businesses and improving the economic situation on both individual and regional levels.
How Municipalities Can Benefit
Give police departments high-quality photos distributed to their vehicles in real-time. Let officers send photos back to headquarters for immediate analysis, to analyze potential suspects.
Give fire departments detailed floor plans and information about hazardous materials delivered to their vehicles before they enter a building. This information can be downloaded as the vehicles approach their destination.
Give traffic departments a way to monitor critical intersections and roadways to better manage traffic flow.
Give administrative departments lower-cost broadband access. By sharing one T1 connection among departments, cities can save significantly on monthly access fees.
The Role of WiMAX in the Municipal Network
WiMAX technologies are complementary to Wi-Fi and cellular in the municipal network. Initial stand-alone vendor solutions are giving way to increased integration between the last mile and edge of the network. Over time, as mobile WiMAX and IP-centric mobile communications protocols including LTE become more widely available, one can argue that these connections could obviate the need for outdoor LAN technologies all together. Whether providing a complementary solution, offering higher integration and cost-savings, or a complete alternative to LAN technologies, WiMAX has an increasingly important role in the municipal wireless network.

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