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Development of the 802.16/WiMAX Standards

The 802.16 standards for wireless Metropolitan Area Networks (wireless MAN) have been under development throughout the last decade. Consolidation with HyperMAN, formation of the WiMAX Forum, and the introduction of mobility have been key milestones in the standards...

  • The original 802.16 standard was ratified in 2001, and provided a standard for point-to-multipoint broadband wireless transmission on a Line of Sight (LoS) basis in the 10 66 GHz band.
  • The 802.16a standard operates at 2 11 GHz, and changes the modulation scheme to Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) so that non-LoS capability can be provided.
  • A major initiative to align the 802.16 standard with the ETSI HyperMAN standard produced 802.16d, correctly known as 802.16-2004, and which subsumes all the previous versions of the 802.16 standard.
  • An amendment designated 802.16e, or more correctly 802.16-2005 added mobility to the standard. It also added various enhancements to the 802.16-2004 standard, including better support for QoS.
  • Various other 802.16 family standards have been agreed or are in the process of being agreed; a major revision of the family is expected when 802.16m is published. This should increase bandwidths available over 802.16 networks to 100 Mbit/s or greater (mobile) and 1000 Mbit/s (fixed) under the most favourable conditions. It is due for publication by the end of 2008 or early 2009 and is expected to be a significant access technology for 4G networks alongside UMTS Long Term Evolution (LTE)

The WiMAX Forum is an industry association which aims to promote the development and interoperability of 802.16 compliant devices. The 802.16 standards are often known as WiMAX standards as a result.

WiMAX and WiFi technologies (a.k.a. IEEE 802.16 and IEEE 802.11) are very different in terms of their capabilities. WiMAX is a connection-oriented technology, which capacity allocated to fixed or mobile stations under the control of the base station; Wifi, on the other hand, is an ad hoc, unlicensed networking technology which relies upon contention to provide access, and so has no effective QoS techniques other than over-capacity.

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