A new wireless technology that is poised to revolutionize broadband wireless access (BWA) communications is Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX), the IEEE 802.16 standard for broadband—big brother to the popular wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi). WiMAX is designed for metropolitan area networks (MANs) whereas Wi-Fi is designed for local area networks (LANs). While Wi-Fi is intended to provide coverage over relatively small areas, such as in offices or hotspots, WiMAX can transfer around 70 Mbps over a distance of 30 miles (48 kilometers) to thousand of users from a single base station. By comparison, the most commonly used standard of Wi-Fi 802.11b can transfer data at speeds up to 11 Mbps over ranges up to 1,000 feet (300 meters) in open areas from a single base station.
The initial version of the WiMAX standard operates in the 10–66 GHz frequency band and requires lineof-sight towers, but the 802.16a extension, ratified in January 2003, uses the lower frequency of 2-11 GHz, enabling nonline-of-sight connections, making it an appropriate technology for last-mile applications where obstacles like trees and buildings are often present. Hence, this constitutes a major breakthrough in wireless broadband access as line-of-sight between your transmission point and the receiving antenna is not necessary. Approved in December 2002, 802.16c is aimed at improving interoperability by specifying system profiles in the 10–66 GHz range.