Practical Technology

for practical people.

Beyond Wi-Fi: WiMAX, LTE, and Windows 7

You might think that you wouldn’t need to worry with any new wireless technologies for your laptop, after 802.11n, with its 100-Megabit per second (Mbps) speeds, finally became a standard. You’d be wrong. Two new technologies, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), also called 802.16e, and Long Term Evolution (LTE), already are beginning to offer computer road warriors new wireless choices.

However, neither one will bring users a significantly faster network experience. In practice, both WiMAX and LTE top out at around 100Mbps. The real difference between these technologies is that instead of access point ranges measured in dozens of meters, these two standards can reach over 50 kilometers. How would you like to use a single “Wi-Fi hotspot” that can keep you connected at home, at the office, at your favorite coffee shop — and on the road between all these places? That’s the promise of both WiMAX and LTE.

Of the two technologies, WiMAX is the more mature. Numerous vendors have already released WiMAX network interface cards (NICs), which are certified by the WiMAX Forum industry consortium as compliant with IEEE standards and thus interoperable. WiMAX is already well accepted in Asia and, with the support of many smaller telecomm firms and the Intel, Google, and Sprint-supported Clear, it’s moving into major U.S. cities.

More >