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Prepping for WiMAX

Dec 21, 20053 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork Security

* WiMAX: Planning ahead

Though there are a number of unknowns about the future of WiMAX services, there is good news for enterprises. Most of the risk surrounding WiMAX falls in the laps of those on the supply side.  For the enterprise IT department, it will eventually be just another service option to consider.

Because of where the standards process has left off and product interoperability certification status stands (there aren’t products WiMAX Forum-certified for interoperability yet), you likely won’t be facing much of a large-scale WiMAX decision until at least 2007. However, if you have an existing WAN carrier that is offering WiMAX or pre-WiMAX trials and you are interested in alternative last-mile options for accessing your WAN service (whether it is frame relay, IP VPN, or some other), you might want to try to sneak in on that trial.

Wireless access, for example, can be a much quicker way to bring new sites and those of acquired companies onto your network than land lines. It can also be a good option for backup and traffic load balancing.

Be on the lookout for some potential niggling integration issues. For example, if you wish to use WiMAX as a secondary link alongside a wired access link, make sure your router supports diverse WAN connections (not just dial backup). Also, many pre-WiMAX products don’t support encryption, though WiMAX-compliant products do, as per the standard. Make sure you’re covered from a security perspective if you use a pilot service.

WiMAX-esque services will be especially attractive to enterprises with lots of distributed small sites (like a retailer or banking organization), seeking an alternative to fixed landline broadband services such as DSL, cable modem, or even T1 or fractional T-1 services. The services will be particularly attractive if they come with service-level agreements and are consistently available across a large geography.

You might even find yourself using WiMAX if you end up using a municipal mesh service. Many mesh services, which currently are based on Wi-Fi technology, will eventually evolve to WiMAX in the backbone, with a choice of Wi-Fi or WiMAX access.

And what of the mobile 802.16e-2005 WiMAX flavor? Gemma Tedesco from In-Stat indicates that persuading the large incumbent service providers and cellular operators — especially those already supporting 3G — will have a huge impact on WiMAX’s success.  Intel, a huge proponent of WiMAX that intends to embed WiMAX chips in laptops by 2007, says it is in talks with prominent network service providers about supporting 802.16e-based mobile services, but will not disclose yet who they are.