Current WiMAX (and its competitors LTE and HSPA+) networks are commonly called 4G, however, this is a mistake to be corrected soon. Today’s broadband mobile networks do not achieve true 4G speeds and are as such not recognized as 4G networks by the IEEE. This, however, is about to change. WiMAX 2 was approved as true 4G by the IEEE and represents the next WiMAX standard and will be the first commercially available true 4G network, expected by the end of 2011.
The WiMAX 2 Standard, also called 802.16m, is predicted to deliver download speeds of 120Mbps and upload speeds of 60Mbps. By the time its ancestor was launched commercially in 2008 by Sprint, the original WiMAX (802.16e) only achieved downlink speeds of 3.7 to 5Mbps. Technical details of the WiMAX 2 are still being finalized but it is already clear that it will support 4×4 MIMO configuration. Both antenna and chipset are available on the market as semiconductor manufacturer GCT announced in a press release today that it had built the first “802.16m single-chip with 4×4 MIMO system”. WiMAX 2 will support multi-channel/multi-carrier operations up to 20MHz bandwidth (10MHz + 10MHz for a better combination of multiple systems). An important feature that will probably ensure the success of WiMAX 2 is that it is backwards compatible with the current WiMAX 802.16e standards. The costs and disruptions of updating the carriers’ networks will thus be greatly reduced. WiMAX-2 will offer data transmission several times higher than the ones existing today to the same amount of users; it will also improve the network performance cost-effectively and in the end, enhance the user-experience.
The only threat to the success of WiMAX 2 is the current tendency for carriers to switch to LTE technology. In the US, the question is: will the two biggest WiMAX supporters, Clearwire and Sprint, still provide WiMAX products and services by the time WiMAX 2 arrives and thus upgrade to it, can they afford to run a dual-technology broadband network, or will they have completely switched from WiMAX to LTE technology?