Wimax: the next disruptive technology?

A few weeks ago I’ve been sitting in a meeting with a Wimax service provider. I was there for a completely different reason (they were interested in our outsourced network management solution), but after the meeting one of the Wimax technical gurus was kind enough to give me a quick walkthrough. I was more interested in the backhaul issues than in the wireless part (which is a total mystery to me) and I really liked what I’ve seen: pure IP-based backhaul, reusing exiting well known protocols like GRE, DHCP, RADIUS and Mobile IP.

Even the wireless part looks promising: they can map a CPE-side VLAN into a channel with its own QoS settings – a perfect solution to separate voice from data (and avoid the issues that choke the DSL world).

So, I started to wonder: will Wimax be the next disruptive technology (like IP was) or is it a dead branch on the wireless evolutionary tree?

Read more in Fragments


  1. Hi,

    WIMAX is just on the road to eventually having super high speed mobile broadband WITH COMPARABLE LATENCY to fixed line. Not 100% sure where it fits in the road.. I.e. a competitor of LTE or a step to LTE (I suspect the former) But it is beyond current HSDPA/HSUPA which you could call 3.5G perhaps.

    Anyhow, the back-haul is becoming all IP already. Goes (very roughly)something like this.

    Mobile-Air/Radio(WIMAX/HSDPA/EDGE/GPRS/HSUPA/LTE)--NodeB--(IP Backhaul)--RNC--(IP/SS7)---SGSN(Data)/MSS/MWG(Voice)--MPLS Backbone--Foreign networks (Like the internet)

    The above does not include the evolution to R5/R6 IMS (converged fixed/mobile) since it hasn't exactly taken off.

    The specifications evolve in releases from R99(3g)-R4(IP Voice Core network)-R5,R6 (IMS)-R7-R8 (LTE) etc .. They basically evolve different parts of the network. For example R4 is enhanced Voice core network over IP.

    So apart from disrupting the mobile phones and potential new hardware/software in radio equipment there will be no disruption on the backbone networks (apart from upgrading to cope with increased capacity and general evolution of the Core voice and packet networks -- I guess this is a disruption but only in the same way fixed line networks have evolved from 7500 days to CRS. Same will be true of the mobile backbones now all on their way to CRS or equivlent ).

    To carry the analogy further, it is the equivalent of turning you ADSL to FTTC (If I am not over egging it)


    The actual protocols for handling both data and voice traffic over mobile networks are well defined in 3GPP specs (let me know if you want some ;-) )


  2. Ivan Pepelnjak21 July, 2009 13:07

    Thanks for the details. What I meant as "disruptive" was the potential effect Wimax might have on existing wireless (3/3.5G) infrastructure.

    If Wimax wins, most of the 3G infrastructure will go the same way as Frame Relay/ATM gear did.


You don't have to log in to post a comment, but please do provide your real name/URL. Anonymous comments might get deleted.

Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354 Emeritus, is an independent network architect. He has been designing and implementing large-scale data communications networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. See his full profile, contact him or follow @ioshints on Twitter.