WiMAX companies say the new standard, a metro area network (MAN) technology, is capable of providing up to 31 miles of linear service area range and eliminates the need to be in direct line of sight to the base station, a critical flaw undermining earlier efforts at fixed wireless broadband. The technology can also pool capacity to deliver rates up to 70 Mbps, enough bandwidth for 60 T-1 type connections or capacity to deliver DSL-level speeds to hundreds of homes using a single sector of a base station, which are expected to come equipped with six sectors.
Hoping to emulate the success of the Wi-Fi Alliance, which spurred the current Wi-Fi revolution, WiMAX will develop conformance test plans, select certification labs and host interoperability events for equipment vendors, as well as work with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to develop test plans for HIPERMAN, the European broadband wireless metro area access standard. Vendors who pass the interoperability tests will get a WiMAX Certified seal of approval.
It's clear that very high-speed fixed wireless can be complementary to WiFi for broadband wireless, and it's good to see industry collaboration around standards that will make it effective (e.g. eliminating line of sight problems that have stalled fixed wireless in the past), but given the incredible investment surrounding WiFi access points and cards, and the R&D around extending 802.11's effective range, it seems that this will ultimately be a competitive situation. [Jeremy Allaire's Radio]