US Wireless Broadband Market Grows – But Which Standard Will Survive?

One thing is for certain – demand for wireless broadband is going to increase rapidly in the US. However, perceived competition between the three main access technologies means that many companies don’t know how to meet that demand.

WiFi, WiMAX and 802.20 are three technologies for providing broadband network connections wirelessly, and it’s difficult to tell which one to back in this race.

WiFi is well established, has a reasonably large installed base and is in use globally. As McDonalds have already named their WiFi provider, you can tell it’s reached mainstream.

WiMAX is backed extensively by Intel and Nokia, and is rapidly emerging as a favourite, though cards employing the technology and WiMAX-enabled laptops are not expected to reach the market until 2007.

WiMAX, based on the 802.16 standard, has huge bandwidth – typically more than 30 times that of 3G data services – and it allows subscribers to receive broadband network access simply by attaching a receiver to their home. This method is being trialled by BT in rural areas as an alternative to digging up fields. The standard is also suitable for people on the move as WiMAX can be used in vehicles up to a speed of 150 Km/h.

The 802.20 wireless networking standard will let you travel at 250 Km/h and still keep a network connection, and so is ideal for deployment on high speed trains.

There are some overlaps between the two technologies, but they are not meant to compete. WiMAX is intended for fixed locations like houses, or a mobile user with a PDA or laptop. 802.20 is intended for high-speed mobility, and can be overlaid on top of an existing WiMAX network.

The WiMAX forum

Senza Fili Consulting’s report on wireless broadband

Inside 802.16

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?