WiMAX Vs Wi-Fi – When Wi-Fi chips are to be Replaced with WiMAX

By Saad Chaudhry

Comparing WiMAX to Wi-Fi is like comparing a car and a bike. Most people think that WiMAX is a superior, more advance version of Wi-Fi, simply by assuming ‘MAX’ a more outstanding term than ‘Fi’.

General mass believes that WiMAX will soon gulp Wi-Fi away. But this is going to take quiet some time as it is hindered by the popularity that Wi-Fi enjoys. Indeed, they both are Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technologies; but they are complementing, not competing.

Wi-Fi is explained as wireless LAN, whereas WiMAX is a wireless WAN (wide area network) or more commonly, a wireless MAN (Metropolitan area network). The IEEE (Institute of electrical and electronic engineers – the organization that standardizes the WiMAX protocol) in fact uses the trademark ‘WirelessMAN’ for 802.16d; the fixed-WiMAX standard.

WiMAX is not going to displace businesses as well as residential wireless LANs in developed countries like US, Germany, Britain and most of the Scandinavia any sooner. This is because of the number of public hot-spots already deployed that these countries don’t need an alternative technology so far. On the other hand, the developing countries like Pakistan and a couple of other in the region are witnessing the WiMAX broadband revolution; Pakistan being the biggest WiMAX market in the world.

But the true WiMAX era is yet to begin. The long promised BWA technology is now maturing with around 40 chipmakers rolling out WiMAX chips based on IEEE’s 802.16e standard (mobile-WiMAX) in large volumes. Their market is mostly Asian and African nations.

The world’s #1 chip maker Intel, a member of WiMAX forum is a veteran when it comes to backing the technology.

‘Montevina’ is the Intel’s first chip that let devices (notebook computers) use both Wi-Fi and WiMAX. With capability of both the technologies the Intel Centrino-2 Processor Technology based laptop will be the ultimate in mobile computing.  Intel claims that its WiMAX enabled Intel Processor-based devices will deliver speed three times the current offering by 3G networks.

There have been quite a debate over the internet predicting the time for when WiMAX is going construct its canopy over the existing technology. In my opinion, initially both of them will work independently; providing different degree of service as wireless LAN (with the existing infrastructure) and wireless MAN respectively. But it can be fairly predicted that a Pakistani nomadic internet user is no longer going to opt for a local wireless LAN provider (which by themselves they are very rare in Pakistan). But instead his choice will rather be a completely portable technology promising internet on-the-go – The WiMAX.

  • How about Wi-Fi with Wimax?.. U have seen a Wimax provider giving away Wi-Fi modems.

    The only thing that is motivating Pakis to go for Wimax is …the damn PTCL landlines.. if I would have got good land line, i wouldn’t have opted for Wateen in first place…

  • Landline needs good infrastructure, which is lacking in Pakistan. As far as I have understood from this article,WiMAX seems more suitable in the years ahead.

  • I totally agree with Hidden Eyes, I wouldn’t have ever given up on my DSL internet connection had the PTCL landlines were decent enough. And yesterday after the torrential rain in Karachi, Wateen worked like anything .. thanks to no cables so to speak. Wi-Max All the Way!!

  • @ Hidden eyes: As i have already said, the two technologies although they are complementary, they are different. A WiMAX operator giving away Wi-Fi modems is like Toyota opening a Vespa service garage. Though the service will equivalently mean engines, axles and other mechanics whatsoever. But you can guess whats would the scenario will be like. That’s impossible.

    @ Rumaisa, MRL: They hype is not about ‘DSL…BAD, Wireless GOOD’.
    If u can recall, till year 2000, we used to have a single landline phone in our homes. Personal phone was not even an imagination then. But now, i mean you can imagine urself without ur cell.
    Its the same thing u would imagine urself without ur personal notebook (or most probably a handheld device) and ur own internet connection not very far in the future.

    • @Saad, I dont see an impossibility here.. Giving Wi-fi modem with Wimax CPE is good step as far as i feel.. i own 4 laptops.. all got Wi-Fi.. but i got one Wimax CPE with Wi-fi Modem.. Don’t you think, its giving me freedom and ease.. I see both of these technologies living side by side..

      • Ahhh . . . thats wht u wer talking abt.
        Well, yes that is obviously. The device ur talking abt is actually wifi or Wireless router not modem. The modem is the one used for reception and is installed in the laptop.

        Moreover, not with WiMAX, but any broadband connection cable, dsl etc can be switched to a wireless router to create a small personal LAN.

  • WiMAX and Wifi are 2 entirely different phenomenons as the writer described, but being an ex-WiMAX user (used Mobilink Infinity since its soft launch for around 3-4 month) i hate WiMAX for the Volume Limit it has. This was the soul reason for me to switch back to Cable … i can’t use the internet with a limit on my head :)

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