Prepare Your Enterprise For WiMax

Here's what you need to know and do to prepare your network for the next wave in wireless networking.



WiMax, the wireless technology that provides broadband connections over long distances, is becoming available in an increasing amount of cities, so it's time to take a look at some of the benefits as well as some of the major thing you need to get your company ready for availability in your area.

When WiMax becomes available locally it can effectively replace a company's T-1 line and provide better connections inside and outside the company, according to Patrick Pfeffer, analyst for Detecon, Inc., Reston, Va., a telecom consulting firm.

He points to these differences between WiMax and other wireless broadband technologies:

  • WiMax is a standard. Most carriers and network equipment manufacturers have embraced the standard, part of the highly popular 802 standard family. Also, unlike other access, WiMax was designed from the ground up to support triple play, the combination of voice, wireless and high-speed Internet access that Detecon expects will be crucial to win as competition heats up in the industry.
  • WiMax does not require line of sight. Most previous broadband wireless access solutions required line of sight, making ubiquitous deployment a marketing hope, but an insurmountable technical challenge. WiMax allows deployment in cities with trees and buildings. This potentially means no more ugly antennas on top of your building, as well as being able to reach your cell phone and PDA.
  • WiMax offers Quality of Service. QoS allows for the deployment of voice, data and video applications with significantly reduced latency and jitter -- problems which plagued WiMax's predecessors. By increasing service diversity (e.g., triple or quadruple play), WiMax allows for wider and richer deployments.
  • WiMax has the best spectrum efficiency to date. WiMax has a theoretical spectrum efficiency of up to 7bit/Hz/Second -- by far, superior to most other wireless technologies. This efficiency allows providers more latitude in their business plans both to acquire spectrum and to manage their radio frequency network.
  • WiMax is supported by industry leaders. Before WiMax, broadband wireless access was the dueling fields of small operators served by small equipment manufacturers. Unable to drive enough volumes, little venture capital was invested. On the other hand, Intel is firmly behind WiMax, and sees it as a follow-up for its hugely successful Centrino. The marketing might of Intel has created an industry-wide momentum for investment, as well as research and development activities. This has sped up the WiMax maturation process.
  • With standards supported by industry leaders, companies will be able to choose the base stations and other equipment they want by features and functionality and can mix and match devices from different providers. Without standards, the systems aren't interoperable, according to Pfeffer.

One of the promises of WiMax us that it's easier to use than wired communications without a decrease in performance. So there's not much one has to do to prepare for it, according to Detecon. However, there are a few things that will make the transition easier and will help a company maximize its use of WiMax

Joshua Estrin, president and CEO of Concepts In Success, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., recommends companies:

  • Make sure everyone is aware of WiMax, its planned uses for the company, what it can and cannot do, and some basic information (in lay terms) of what the technology is and how it works.
  • Test your environment. Though WiMax is supposed to eliminate "dead zones" that can afflict WiFi, only time will tell if it can communicate effectively in all environments or if parts of or entire buildings of certain compositions or in certain locations can't receive the WiMax signal.
  • If you convert to WiMax, particularly if you have people using it from remote locations, make sure that all files are backed up in case a transmission doesn't reach its expected destination. Files should also be backed up to a on-site device to protect the company from information loss if a laptop or other portable handheld device is lost or stolen.
  • Operate in a dual environment (non-WiMax and WiMax) until you're sure conversion to WiMax makes sense for your company. Even in those instances, Estrin recommends converting in stages, rather than a full-scale, one-step solution.

Bruce Gustafson, director of WiMax marketing, Nortel Networks, Toronto also recommends:

  • Think today about how security will be addressed, even if you have no immediate plans to use WiMax. In a couple of years Intel intends to produce laptops with embedded WiFi and WiMax capabilities. So company employees working remotely will be able to use WiMax even if the company doesn't directly support it.
  • Discuss contractual service agreements with the WiMax provider. Look for features including quality of service, VPN capabilities, etc.
  • Look at the company's current network connections. If WiFi meets all of your needs, you may not need WiMax.
  • Know the spectrum the WiMax provider will offer service. This is important if workers travel overseas, where WiMax may not be offered in the same spectrum.

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