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.