The 4G revolution started with a simple idea: cheap broadband Internet access – anytime and anywhere – for everyone. Over the next decade the pursuit of this idea hastened the inevitable collision of the internet and telephony industries, and pushed forward a new set of technologies that are changing the way the world connects. Now WiMAX technology is used by consumers in 150 countries, and is gaining acceptance in vertical industries such as aviation and Smart Grid.
In June of 2001, a number of technology corporations and service providers formed the WiMAX Forum to accelerate wide-scale adoption of Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) technology. The new organization was founded with three primary goals in mind: establish standards and build profiles for equipment that ensured interoperability; work with government agencies to release spectrum; establish and grow an ecosystem nurturing vendor innovation and carrier deployment to encourage mass adoption of WiMAX™ technologies.
"The WiMAX Forum was built around the idea of open standards, free sharing of information, low patent usage fees and collaboration across the ecosystem," said Ron Resnick, president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum. "Our founding members were trying to fundamentally change the telecommunication industry by introducing an all-IP global standards-based wireless broadband technology to meet the pent up demands of consumers and allow for more choice of services and devices. The move away from the traditional telephony business-model built on voice-centric architecture to an internet model based on ubiquitous data-centric networks is a revolution that the entire world will benefit from."
"WiMAX enables innovative complimentary data business model based on open retail, low IPR and wide bandwidth spectrum allocation globally serving 4G, rural broadband, backhaul and Smart Grid deployments," said Mo Shakouri, Corporate Vice President, Innovation and Marketing for Alvarion, "and this is a good thing for consumers and businesses across the world. Alvarion would like to thank the WiMAX Forum for its support, and congratulate it on this milestone."
Key Milestones for the WiMAX Forum
For ten years the WiMAX Forum worked to support its membership as the industry grew from its fledgling state to encompass nearly 600 WiMAX deployments in 150 countries today:
Product Standards – In June 2004, three years after the organization's inception, the WiMAX Forum released its first standard based on IEEE's 802.16-2004. In January 2006, an evolved WiMAX standard based on IEEE's 802.16e was released, allowing equipment manufacturers to turn their attention to mobile applications. In October 2010, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recognized IEEE's next standard, 802.16m, as one of only two IMT-Advanced technologies. IMT-Advanced requirements demand groundbreaking speeds and capacity. 802.16m exceeds its requirements, offering as much as 180 Mbit/s of aggregate downlink throughput per site using a 20 MHz TDD channel in ITU's real-world microcellular system model, with further support for nearly 2500 VoIP users per site. Depending on design goals, antenna configurations, and spectrum availability, significantly higher dates rates can be enabled. A test of 802.16m in October, 2010 by UQ Communications and Samsung reached download speeds in excess of 330Mbps.
"Utilizing WiMAX technology, UQ launched mobile broadband services in July 2009," stated Akio Nozaka, President of UQ Communications. "WiMAX technology's high speed capabilities gave us a competitive advantage over other 3G operators and the number of our subscribers has quickly grown to 1 million in just two years. I congratulate the WiMAX Forum on its 10th anniversary and believe the WiMAX industry will continue to keep our momentum going into the future."
Certification and Interoperability Testing - In August 2005, the WiMAX Forum opened its first certification lab with AT4 Wireless and the first WiMAX Forum Certified product was released in January 2006. Today, the WiMAX Forum has six partner labs offering certification testing to its member companies, including locations in China, Korea, Malaysia, the United States and two labs in Taiwan. To date WiMAX Forum Designated Certification Labs have completed certification for more than 265 products including smartphones, notebooks, netbooks, dongles, base stations and more.
The Future of WiMAX
At the beginning of 2011 over 823 million people were covered by WiMAX networks, and by the end of 2011 the WiMAX Forum estimates that number to increase to more than one billion people. Likewise the WiMAX subscriber base is also increasing rapidly, with service providers such as Clearwire and UQ Communications experiencing exponential growth. In 1Q 2011 Clearwire grew its subscriber base by 1.8 million subscribers, while UQ Communications has grown in the last 6 months by almost 300%. Maravedis Research recently announced that at the end of Q1 2011 there were 17.25 million WiMAX subscribers globally. According to Infonetics Research, in 2010 the WiMAX equipment market grew by 85%, and according to market intelligence firm Infiniti Research, the WiMAX equipment market will reach $6.9 Billion in 2014.
"I would like to congratulate the WiMAX Forum on its 10th anniversary," stated Dr. Cheng-Wen Wu, General Director of ITRI/ICL & VP of ITRI. "Taiwanese vendors will ship an estimated 500 million USD worth of WiMAX devices in 2011. We are promoting innovative applications in disaster recovery, high speed rail, and smart grid. The Taiwanese ecosystem continues to stand behind WiMAX and we are proud of our nation's contribution to the industry."
In addition to the traditional telecommunications industry, other exciting opportunities for WiMAX vendors are emerging in industry verticals such as aviation, education, energy, government, healthcare and more. Examples include:
* Aviation - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) have chosen WiMAX as their technology of choice for airport terrestrial communications services. Over the next five years WiMAX technology will be deployed in 2,000 airports in the U.S. alone.
* Education – Universities around the globe are deploying WiMAX to blanket their campuses and local communities. Northern Michigan University, located in Marquette, Mich., created a WiMAX network that covers about 40 square miles over rugged terrain in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan. NMU's WiMAX network not only enhances the educational capabilities of students and employees, but also the educational opportunities for K-12 schools within the network's boundaries as well as the fire, police, utility and city workers for several cities and townships in Marquette County.
* Energy – Utilities, interested in owning and operating their own Smart Grid networks, are using WiMAX technology. In Australia SP Ausnet deployed the world's first WiMAX-based smart metering network. The network has more than 680,000 WiMAX-connected smart meters capable of delivering 100% meter population read within 2 hour periods and 15,000 on-demand reads per day.
* Government – Cities and counties are replacing expensive T1 lines with WiMAX technologies to lower costs and improve services. The city of Houston is building a 640- square-mile WiMAX network as part of a $6.4 million dollar project to allow remote management of its traffic system, automatic readings of water meters and provide Internet access to underserved communities.
"Airspan believes that WiMAX today offers the same unique wireless communication proposition as it did 10 years ago when we helped found the organization," said Paul Senior, Chief Technology Officer of Airspan. "Over the last decade we have seen WiMAX develop into a mature, successful and fully interoperable technology that has influenced and changed the lives of millions of users and enterprises across the globe. The WiMAX Forum has been instrumental in its support of a standardized technology for operators as well as specialized markets such as Smart Grids. Airspan has been a dedicated and contributing member to the WiMAX Forum and is happy to take this opportunity to wish the Forum a happy 10th Anniversary."
"The WiMAX industry will continue to innovate and improve the technology to fill communications needs that we can't even begin to imagine today," Resnick said. "I'm proud of the part the WiMAX Forum has played and will continue to play in the future as we evolve with the technology to meet those new industry demands."