Technology Review writes:
Metropolitan area wireless networking at broadband speeds isnt new, but the specialized equipment that receives the broadband signals has typically been too expensive for everyone but large businesses. Now that U.S. computing and communications firms are gradually reaching consensus on the details of the WiMax standard, however, those prices could come down significantly. Industry agreement on details such as how to encrypt WiMax signals, which frequencies to use, and how to provide multiple users with access to those frequencies will finally allow companies like Intel to manufacture mass quantities of WiMax-enabled chips for use in broadband wireless equipment. And thats expected to eventually bring WiMax receivers into the $50 to $100 price range of todays DSL and cable modems, meaning that millions of users could eventually drop their current Internet service providersoften local phone or cable companiesand simply access the Internet over rooftop antennas at the other end of town.
WiMaxan acronym for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Accessis little more than a long list of technical specifications intended to ensure that wireless equipment from different vendors can interoperate at high speeds. Also known as 802.16, the specifications have been under development since the 1990s as an alternative to technologies such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi. A single WiMax transmitter will transmit voice, video, and data signals across distances of up to 50 kilometers (assuming an unobstructed line of sight) at rates as high as 70 megabits per secondenough to support about 60 businesses at T1 speeds, or hundreds of homes at DSL speeds.
While the emergence of WiMax will give consumers, businesses, and people in hard-to-reach areas a powerful new way to connect to the Internet, it wont happen overnight. For one thing, it could take manufacturers some time to reach the economies of scale that would enable consumer-priced WiMax equipment. Then theres the cost of building a network of transmitters. People tend to think that you can put one WiMax tower on a hillside and beam around the entire city, and thats certainly not the case, says Intels Richardson. When you fill up a cell, you use up the capacitymeaning that providers will still have to add towers as demand grows, just as they do in traditional cell-phone networks.
HeavyReading has a WiMax report.