WiMax is getting a boost. Global standards body Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has approved IEEE 802.16m, the wireless standard for the next generation of WiMax, known as WiMax-2, or WirelessMAN-Advanced. The standard potentially could offer downstream speeds of more than 300M bps.
The standard was the work of “hundreds of creative and diligent professionals from over 20 countries during the last four years,” Roger Marks, chairman of the IEEE 802.16 Working Group, said in a March 31 statement. “Our organization was able to efficiently harmonize these innovative technologies into a clear set of specifications guiding the future development of the mobile broadband marketplace.”
WiMax is the flavor of 4G offered by Sprint, through partner Clearwire, and was the first type of 4G network to debut. While T-Mobile began offering 4G services based on HSPA+ technology in November 2010, and Verizon launched its LTE (Long-Term Evolution)-based network a month later, Sprint, like a number of carriers around the globe, began offering WiMax in 2008. AT&T now also offers HSPA+, though has plans to roll out LTE toward the middle of this year.
Despite WiMax’s significant head start, LTE is, by many accounts, expected to become the predominant 4G technology. ABI Research, in a September 2010 report, forecast mobile WiMax subscribers to approach 59 million in 2015, while In-Stat expects LTE subscribers to near 115 million by 2014.
Aware of LTE’s popularity, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has said the carrier is considering rolling out an LTE network alongside its WiMax network, and in August 2010 Clearwire announced plans to conduct 4G LTE trials, while again insisting on its commitment to WiMax, at least for the time being.
“As we have consistently stated, we remain technology agnostic, but WiMax provides us with unique advantages to meet the needs of our customers today,” Clearwire CTO John Saw said in a statement at the time.
While WiMax, LTE and HSPA+ have all – as far as mainstream branding goes – been accepted as 4G technologies, only WiMax2 and LTE-Advanced, a next generation of the LTE currently offered, meet the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) criteria for being a true 4G technology.