He-Said/He-Said: WiMAX vs. Landline Broadband

Over in our News Analysis section today, we have a story on the IEEE working to boost WiMAX speeds. That led a couple of our editors, Frank Bulk and Sean Ginevan, to debate the prospect of a wireless technology overtaking...

February 24, 2007

3 Min Read
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Over in our News Analysis section today, we have a story on the IEEE working to boost WiMAX speeds. That led a couple of our editors, Frank Bulk and Sean Ginevan, to debate the prospect of a wireless technology overtaking wired options as a primary wide area data option.Read their debate now:

Many have questioned just how advantageous WiMax will be in light of forthcoming iterations of current 3G standards (specifically EV-DO Rev C, an evolution of standards used by CDMA carriers, and 3G LTE, an evolution of GSM). Unlike WiMax, evolutions of the current 3G standards will let carriers provide higher speed data services while supporting their current CDMA or GSM customers.

However, IEEE's push to drive 802.16 toward gigabit speed with the 802.16m standard will give the WiMax a competitive advantage. Not only could 802.16m offer new opportunities for wireless services, it also could represent serious competition to wireline Internet access means. Given how notoriously slow the standards process can be (witness the lengthy ratification process of 802.11n), 2009 seems to be a lofty goal. And even if the IEEE does meet that timeline, products based on the standard will no doubt take a good bit of time after that to come to market. -Sean Ginevan, NWC Contributing Editor



I have to disagree [with Sean's statement]. You can't duplicate spectrum, but every cable reproduces a significant portion of spectrum. Wireline services will always stay ahead. There's already talk of 1-Gbps service over cable modems, and 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps over copper (post VDSL2). -Frank Bulk, NWC Contributing Editor



You don't think 1Gbps per cell site would provide competition to wireline services? Sure, cable modems would probably offer more bandwidth per user but, from my own limited understanding, cable modem systems still share bandwidth amongst a subset of users (it's not like you get 1Gbps per user). -Sean Ginevan



1 Gbps per sector would be impressive. I'm not holding my breath to see that, in production, anytime in this decade. Just look at HSDPA theoretical versus actual.Wireline will always be more cost-effective for fixed services and mobility will always demand a premium.-Frank Bulk



Ok, I sort of agree. Wireline services will be more cost competitive than wireless (assuming a certain population density, as Howard mentions). However I think many users will think to themselves that they might want to have mobility and sacrifice some performance to do it. On Cingular's network today, actual throughput (400Kbps to 780Kbps, roughly based on my testing and Jameson's testing last year) is about 22% to 43% of the theoretical data rate of 1.8Mbps. In Wi-Fi, actual throughput for 11g is about 40% of the theoretical data rate (22Mbps versus 54Mbps theoretical).

Taking those percentages in mind, a 1Gbps WiMAX network would still be dang quick: about 220 to 430Mbps. Unlike 3G, those types of data rates are easily quick enough to serve as someone's primary network connection, even if you have a large number of users per sector. And if users switch from their wired data provider onto a wireless data provider (as has been the case with voice networks today), that would represent competition, right? -Sean Ginevan



That's it for now...stay tuned to see if the discussion continues, or post your own thoughts below.

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