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WIMAX - What's it good for?

This is a discussion thread for WIMAX in general, and WiMAX applications specifically.

Most WIMAX applications today are essentially WISP - Wireless Internet Service Provider.  A handful, especially in Africa, are adding voice telephony, using a WIMAX service called UGS, and end to end QoS delivered through the Cisco Service Control Engine.  Almost all WImAX WISPs find it necessary to shapoe their traffic to prevent a few users from hogging all the available bandwidth.

A very interesting aspect of WIMAX to me, is the ability to advance social mandates and concerns, such as the availability of healthcare and education in rural and under-developed areas.  WIMAX offers a very low cost way to provide IP connectivity to these areas, potentially fully or partially funded by governments, with remote educators and doctors.  One doctor I spoke (Dr. Stein of Map of Medicine) with described it to me as "extending my knowledge and expertise over the net".  Combined with low cost computing devices such as the Intel Classmate and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initative, web conferencing applications such as CIsco WEBEX offer the ability to extend educators' reach as well.

Does anyone out there have needs for services like this?  Can we work together?


Everybody needs services that you have described. Only question is to find most suitable technology, both in economic and technical way. Distant healthcare was available before but it was expensive and with low throughput. Covering rural areas could be potential application but some countries are using CDMA2000 as a cheap solution for rural areas in 450MHz. It is not a broadband solution, but it is cheap enough and most people in rural areas (some of them even without a phone) do not ask for broadband. When they ask for it there will be three questions to answer: frequency band, technology and price. Capacity issue is related to customer needs and it could cause to have fiber as first and only solution, with wireless 9WiMAX) as a backup. Femtocells are, in my opinion, pretty much dependable on wired infrastructure and will ask end users to be much more involved in network issues. So, answer would be that WiMAX is suitable for everything. The question is if it is economically justified to be used (based on case). Next question is how fast is possible to deploy cognitive radio?

So to the point on economics, we all know that Wimax drives substantially lower cost/KB (measured in total amortized capex/opex) than do wireline networks and this has been the primary driver of Wimax build-out in the developing world.....but what's interesting to note, however, is that such "fixed-line-replacement" plays are increasingly provided over mobile Wimax networks (802.11e) as carriers covert existing 802.11d networks and/or opt for direct 802.11e deployment (now over 80% of forecasted Wimax network capex in coming year).  Mobile Wimax networks can of course do quite a bit more than serve as a wireless "bit pipe," enabling mobile voice, video and collaboration services (and we can all think of quite a few other service ideas).   So will emerging markets rapidly outgrow their low-bit rate 2G voice networks (mobility and all) as fully mobile Wimax networks make inroads?  Can broadband data demand be that far behind?

No, broadband is a push but not the key one. Customer behavior and business plans are pushing solutions towards broadband. I agree that WiMAX has showed possibility to be technology with lowest price per KB, but with fixed customer, offering mobile WiMAX (82.16e) there is an overhead which is associated with mobile users and makes this analysis questionable. So, mobility is simply added to be a competitor to existing HSPA networks. Emerging markets in Europe are all already served by HSPA, so WiMAX potential is in Latin America or Africa. Also, Greenfield investments are showing (at least from my own experience) that build out price is same as for cellular sites (in access network) being something cheaper in core. This is not something that will make new entrant to go for WiMAX instead of LTE or UMTS/HSPA.Second important thing is price compared to wired solutions. Having ADSL is cheaper than having WiMAX (at least in an emerging country). WiMAX is always positioned as ADSL replacement in areas where ADSL is not available and it is little bit more expensive. If you are incumbent operator with good infrastructure and you are not neglecting your customers, you will be always able to be cheaper and with higher throughput.Most important thing is a spectrum. For fully broadband access, competitive to wired solutions, WiMAX will need a lot of spectrum which will be the most important problem – where to find capacity in limited resources?

I see WiMAX as a solid wireless IP solution that fits better in existing IP wired solutions of operators than HSPA or LTE, as well as for business customers and alternative operators. WiMAX network will exist but they will serve as broadband access solution only in Latin America or Africa, while in Europe it will be additional technology that will provide wireless IP.

It may be interesting to see the ways in which WiMAX is being used in the real world, especially in places where alternatives are limited. For example see one article - WiMAX Gives Boost to Education in Pakistan - for which I was recently interviewed. Of course one could argue that rival technologies could work as well as WiMAX here. The key in developing countries is the cost and availability. For projects which are subsidized, connectivity is what matters.



Check out this video on youtube - shows the use of WIMAX to deliver connectivity for Chiang Mai University in Northern Thailand.  You do of course all speak fluent Thai, don't you?

Wonderful article Barbar on how WiMAX is helping improve access to education in Pakistan. Thank you. Related question for you ...what process is pursued to encourage support from the likes of UNESCO? The article mentions their support for a mobile network solution. What do you see as the tipping point for them to support the WiMAX project?

Robert -

Thanks for the note. There's not much process. More needs to be done to illustrate the benefits of new technologies and it has to be a multi stakeholder approach. The problem, as I see it, is that there's no champion for this. The technology team is on its own, the education experts are not that familiar with the technical side, there are concerns about cost and not much empahsis by the politicians. The question is: who will drive this? One possible solution is to work with NGOs who are active in education sector.

Do you know if Cisco Pakistan is active in this area?



Hi everyone,

My main focus is really on the IPTV broadband sector....many wonderful opportunities for Cisco here. I hope they take advantage of everyone of them... especially with their ownership of Scientific Atlantic.

As for WIMAX....I think its going to be a great asset and a great technology in the months and years to come. There is a really nice little company in Israel that is really at the forefront of WIMAX Technology.... Alvarion LTD About  ~ Alvarion Press Releases

Nice to be here....look forward to many great post by other members.


Dan Brown


IPTV Domain Names


Thanks for your comments.  Naturally, I agree with your comments about WiMAX!  Although a new and emerging sector, WiMAX is already showing that it can be a cost effective and speedy method of connecting to the public Internet, as well as to private Intranets (via VPN), and for delivering e-learning and telemedicine services to underserved communities (see the Cisco/Intel telemedicine demo on Youtube:

Cisco has partnered with several radio vendors, including Alvarion and Samsung, in delivering integrated solutions and services to Service Provider networks around the world.  Examples include Monaco Telecom (, YTL (, and Clearwire (  In fact, of the approximately of 35 Cisco WiMAX networks around the world, about half use non-Cisco radios, where Cisco provides the ASN/GWY, WiMAX CSN Core, IP core infrastructure, and end-to-end integration services.  An increasing proportion use Cisco’s BWX WiMAX radio solutions, which offer superior coverage and capacity, and reduce the cost of deployment typically by 30% compared to other vendor’s solutions, as well as saving money over the life of the network.  I’d like to invite you to check them out on