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How can Wi-Fi interoperate with WiMAX and LTE?

Mon, 12/14/2009 - 11:47am
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While Wi-Fi technology has proven to be largely successful in providing inexpensive wireless Internet service within close proximity to the Wi-Fi access point, WiMax technology could expand the potential of wireless penetration and connection quality.

How can Wi-Fi interoperate with WiMAX and LTE?
Ashish Sharma, VP Corporate Communications, Alvarion

Wi-Fi technology has proven very successful for short range broadband connectivity for hotspots, residential homes and enterprises all around the globe, providing inexpensive wireless internet service within close proximity to the Wi-Fi access point through the use of license-exempt frequency bands. WiMAX complements Wi-Fi by enabling mobile internet over large distances, typically in the order of several kilometers, mainly on licensed frequencies. The success of Wi-Fi for embedded devices such as laptops and cell phones demonstrates the vast potential for WiMAX as it looks to bring a multitude of embedded devices to the market soon. WiMAX can expand the potential of wireless penetration as it offers enhanced quality of service (QoS) and security, two very important elements required for seamless experience. In the future, any device that could potentially benefit from connectivity can become a WiMAX-enabled device. This includes digital cameras, digital music players and even your home security system.

Even when you get down to the chipset level, Wi-Fi chipsets are similar to WiMAX chipsets, which means both can be embedded into one chip. On the device side, the two technologies are already working hand-in-hand as several device manufactures have started to embed both in their products.

Both technologies together can further increase the reach of Internet to enable anywhere, anytime access, whether you are at home, at work or on the go. Service providers also benefit from two separate yet large ecosystems that provide distinct benefits for different usage scenarios. While Wi-Fi provides best effort access to high speed data, WiMAX is designed to guarantee the service quality of end-to-end IP based applications.

There are products available in the market today that provide operators a winning combination of Wi-Fi and WiMAX. Products such as Alvarion's BreezeMAX® Wi2 enable a variety of applications and services for multiple market segments such as basic broadband access, public safety, video surveillance, indoor coverage, and advanced VoIP, video and mobile applications.

How can Wi-Fi interoperate with WiMAX and LTE?
Dominic Rowles, WiMAX and Test Services Business Unit Director, Anite

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that WiMAX will supersede Wi-Fi – with such similar names, it is tempting to see them as different stages in the evolution from fixed to mobile broadband. In practice, the two technologies will have to work side-by-side in order to compete with the emergence of HSPA+ and LTE networks.

Wi-Fi enables subscribers to receive wireless broadband access in small "hotspots" – homes, workplaces and public areas such as coffee shops and libraries. It offers open or secure access, to cater for public and private networks, and is embedded in an increasing variety of consumer devices: phones, PCs, printers, music players, digital cameras, gaming devices and entertainment centres. By connecting "smart appliances" both to the internet and to each other, Wi-Fi's popularity is strong and growing: In-Stat predicts that annual Wi-Fi chipset shipments will reach 430 million in 2009.

Consumers demand for fully mobile high-speed internet access, driven by the popularity of Wi-Fi enabled smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone, leaves a gap in the market: if you're not in a hotspot, how can you stream music or video to your mobile device? WiMAX is the natural technology to fill this gap because it offers the same high-speed internet access as Wi-Fi but over an area that is a thousand times wider. Inexpensive devices that allow consumers to access WiMAX networks and create their own personal Wi-Fi hotspots are already available. As Wi-Fi continues to grow in the home, it will be WiMAX that takes Wi-Fi devices out on the streets.

While WiMAX and WiFi consider whether to partner to provide a complete nomadic connectivity solution, 3GPP technologies are stealthily encroaching into WiFi heartlands e.g. your home. 3GPP performance and pricing attacks Wi-Fi territory to such an extent, that if Wi-Fi and WiMAX fail to partner quickly, WiMAX will never mature and Wi-Fi will decay rapidly. Fixed-line telecommunications and broadband providers should protect their revenues now by pairing Wi-Fi's huge installed base with WiMAX's metropolitan coverage.

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