WiMAX is a wireless broadband solution that offers a rich set of features with a lot of flexibility in terms of deployment options and potential service offerings. Some of the more salient features that deserve highlighting are as follows −
WiMAX can provide two forms of wireless service −
Non-line-of-sight − service is a WiFi sort of service. Here a small antenna on your computer connects to the WiMAX tower. In this mode, WiMAX uses a lower frequency range -- 2 GHz to 11 GHz (similar to WiFi).
Line-of-sight − service, where a fixed dish antenna points straight at the WiMAX tower from a rooftop or pole. The line-of-sight connection is stronger and more stable, so it's able to send a lot of data with fewer errors. Line-of-sight transmissions use higher frequencies, with ranges reaching a possible 66 GHz.
The WiMAX physical layer (PHY) is based on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing, a scheme that offers good resistance to multipath, and allows WiMAX to operate in NLOS conditions.
WiMAX is capable of supporting very high peak data rates. In fact, the peak PHY data rate can be as high as 74Mbps when operating using a 20MHz wide spectrum.
More typically, using a 10MHz spectrum operating using TDD scheme with a 3:1 downlink-to-uplink ratio, the peak PHY data rate is about 25Mbps and 6.7Mbps for the downlink and the uplink, respectively.
WiMAX has a scalable physical-layer architecture that allows for the data rate to scale easily with available channel bandwidth.
For example, a WiMAX system may use 128, 512, or 1,048-bit FFTs (fast fourier transforms) based on whether the channel bandwidth is 1.25MHz, 5MHz, or 10MHz, respectively. This scaling may be done dynamically to support user roaming across different networks that may have different bandwidth allocations.
WiMAX supports a number of modulation and forward error correction (FEC) coding schemes and allows the scheme to be changed as per user and per frame basis, based on channel conditions.
AMC is an effective mechanism to maximize throughput in a time-varying channel.
WiMAX supports automatic retransmission requests (ARQ) at the link layer for connections that require enhanced reliability. ARQ-enabled connections require each transmitted packet to be acknowledged by the receiver; unacknowledged packets are assumed to be lost and are retransmitted.
IEEE 802.16-2004 and IEEE 802.16e-2005 supports both time division duplexing and frequency division duplexing, as well as a half-duplex FDD, which allows for a low-cost system implementation.
Mobile WiMAX uses Orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDM) as a multiple-access technique, whereby different users can be allocated different subsets of the OFDM tones.
Both uplink and downlink resource allocation are controlled by a scheduler in the base station. Capacity is shared among multiple users on a demand basis, using a burst TDM scheme.
The WiMAX solution has a number of hooks built into the physical-layer design, which allows for the use of multiple-antenna techniques, such as beamforming, space-time coding, and spatial multiplexing.
The WiMAX MAC layer has a connection-oriented architecture that is designed to support a variety of applications, including voice and multimedia services.
WiMAX system offers support for constant bit rate, variable bit rate, real-time, and non-real-time traffic flows, in addition to best-effort data traffic.
WiMAX MAC is designed to support a large number of users, with multiple connections per terminal, each with its own QoS requirement.
WiMAX supports strong encryption, using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), and has a robust privacy and key-management protocol.
The system also offers a very flexible authentication architecture based on Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP), which allows for a variety of user credentials, including username/password, digital certificates, and smart cards.
The mobile WiMAX variant of the system has mechanisms to support secure seamless handovers for delay-tolerant full-mobility applications, such as VoIP.
The WiMAX Forum has defined a reference network architecture that is based on an all-IP platform. All end-to-end services are delivered over an IP architecture relying on IP-based protocols for end-to-end transport, QoS, session management, security, and mobility.