Wi-Fi has many advantages as a wireless networking standard. The equipment is relatively inexpensive and the data transfer speed is good.
However, it has one major drawback: its effective range is about 300 feet. This is enough for a typical home, but companies, universities, and cities who want to cover a large area with Wi-Fi access have to deploy dozens, or even hundreds, of access points.
A technology that may eventually replace Wi-Fi is called Mobile WiMax (802.16e). Estimates differ wildly on what the mobile version of this wireless networking standard will offer, but expect a range that covers miles and a data transfer speed at least comparable to Wi-Fi, and possibly higher.
The reason why details are so sketchy is the 802.16e working group is still working on the specification. This process is expected to finish up later this year, but the first Mobile WiMax products probably won’t be available for another couple of years.
What About the Competition?
Many people question the need for WiMax. Wireless service providers are starting to deploy technologies like EV-DO and EDGE, which offer comparable data transfer speeds and are available now, not in a couple of years.
However, a company or university that wants to set up a wide-area Wireless Network can’t put up an EV-DO or EDGE network. However, they could deploy WiMax in the same way they set up Wi-Fi networks now.
In addition, there are some that predict that the high-speed cellular-wireless technologies will get bogged down by the thousands of people downloading music and videos, doing video conferencing, etc.