WiMax comes in two basic flavors -- one for fixed wireless and one for mobile. The fixed version, handily known as 802.16d, was designed to be a replacement or supplement for broadband cable access or DSL. A more recently ratified version, 802.16e, also can support mobile wireless applications, but it allows for roaming among base stations as well. Thus the two standards are generally known as "fixed WiMax" and "mobile WiMax."
WiMAX, considered the souped-up successor to the WiFi wireless standard, could greatly increase the amount of information that cell phones and other mobile devices can pull from the air. Until recently, however, the elaborate antenna technology needed for sending and receiving WiMAX signals has been a big drain on a mobile device's batteries. But, it's this promise of Personal Broadband that is driving service providers and manufactures alike to keep pursuing and perfecting the technology. The potential is HUGE. Personal Broadband is said to be the next great service technology since the cellular phone.
Now that the telecommunications industry has settled on final specifications for WiMAX, though, including provisions for power efficiency, manufacturers are exploring ways to build the energy-efficient chips needed to make consumer WiMAX devices viable.
WiMAX-enabled handhelds would be able to access greater bandwidth than traditional cellular networks, allowing faster streaming media and Internet downloads. Moreover, WiMAX phones using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) might drop fewer calls and keep working up to 50 kilometers away from base stations, compared with 16 kilometers for cellular networks and WiFi's mere 100 meters.
Also, by the end of the year, Intel plans to introduce a single-chip radio called Ofer-R, which supports both WiFi and WiMax. Intel's WiFi/WiMax integration plans show a parade of devices -- including a camera and an iPod.
With all that said, the industry at large has a price target and an immediate set of objectives. We would ultimately like to see WiMax modems get below $50. When we hit that mark, magic things will happen. George Jetson will be impressed!!