WiMAX Seen Complementing, Competing With Cellular Service

By Joseph Palenchar On Aug 7 2006 - 6:00am

Cellular carriers could adopt mobile WiMAX to offload voice and data traffic during peak periods in congested markets, but other companies could emerge to compete with cellular carriers by offering low-cost wireless VoIP service and wireless data service at data speeds exceeding cellular-data speeds, according to the WiMAX Forum.

The IP-based technology promises VoIP and wireless data services with handoffs at vehicular speeds just like cellular. In a major advance over cellular, however, mobile WiMAX will offer data download rates at up to three times the data download rates of such cellular technologies as W-CDMA HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) and CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. B. (See table.)

The Mobile WiMAX standard, developed by the WiMAX Forum and based on IEEE's 802.16 standard, promises a “personal broadband” experience, a recently released forum whitepaper said. The nonprofit forum will certify the components in an “end-to-end architecture,” including network equipment and subscriber units, as conforming with its refinements to ensure interoperability and service quality.

Besides its performance edge, mobile WiMAX promises subscriber devices that will be low-cost because of the economies of their IP-based architecture, the whitepaper said. As a result, “WiMAX modules will be embedded into many data, CE and voice devices, including notebooks, PDAs, ultra-mobile PCs, game consoles, MP3 players, cellular phones and smartphones as well as device for vertical applications, like CCTV cameras and in-vehicle subscriber stations.”

Mobile WiMAX will also be cost-effective to deploy, the whitepaper argued. “The fact that range and coverage for WiMAX is comparable to the existing mobile [cellular] network means that the operator can use existing cell sites for a WiMAX overlay and does not have to invest in new cell sites,” a spokesman explained. Companies not in the cellular business could build a WiMAX-based network from the ground up to deliver higher throughputs than existing cellular standards while using the same number of base stations, or the companies could deliver cellular-like capacity with fewer base stations.

WiMAX's combined advantages will enable operators to meet consumer expectations for low-cost service, said forum member Siavash Alamouti, Intel's chief technical officer. “Consumers are unlikely to pay a large premium for mobility — 10 to 20 percent at most [over fixed landline service],” he contended.

“VoIP is expected to be one of the most popular WiMAX applications,” the whitepaper said, but its low latency and quality of service are also suitable for video streaming, wireless mobile gaming and other multimedia applications.

The forum expects WiMAX deployments in the United States to begin in late 2007 and early 2008 and notes that 170 trials worldwide are underway.

Initial mobile WiMAX subscriber units will include desktop devices as well as mini PCMCIA cards, PCI Express cards, USB modules and the like for notebook PCs. In 2008, subscribers will avail themselves to devices with embedded WiMAX chips, including notebooks, PDAs, ultra-mobile PCs, phones, smartphones and other handheld devices.

Potential non-cellular WiMAX providers include cable operators and local phone companies that could make the same services available over wire or wireless, the form said.

Mobile WiMAX combines the best attributes of Wi-Fi and cellular, the forum contended. It called Wi-Fi inefficient for voice but efficient for data, while cellular is efficient for voice but inefficient for data. Mobile WiMAX will deliver the “triple play” of VoIP, Web browsing and file transfers, a spokesman said, in portable and mobile applications and in “fixed nomadic” applications in which a user changes position during a data session but not during a data transmission.

“WiMAX meets the growing mass-market demand for cost-effective, high-throughout broadband wireless services,"”the forum contends.

Mobile WiMAX, Cellular Throughputs*
Wireless TechnologyDownlinkUplink
CEMA 1X EV-DO, Revision A1.06Mbps0.45Mbps
CDMA 1x EV-DO, Revision B4.65Mbps1.39Mbps
W-CDMA HSDPA**3.91Mbps0.7Mbps
W-CDMA HSUPA**3.91Mbps5Mbps
Mobile WiMAX With SIMO+9.1Mbps1.6Mbps
Mobile WiMAX With MIMO+14.1Mbps2.2Mbps
*Assumes 30 simultaneous users per base station(10 users per each of three base station sectors), with cellular technologies operating in the 2GHz band and WiMAX in the 2.5GHz band.
**HDSPA is high-speed downlink packet access, and HSUPA is high-speed uplink packet access.
+ Speeds assume a 3:1 ratio of downlink traffic to uplink traffic. A 1:1 ratio allows for higher uplinks but lower downlinks. SIMO refers to single-input, multiple-output.
Source: WiMAX Forum © TWICE 2006

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