What is WiMAX and How WiMAX Works?

What is WiMAX

What is WiMAX

What is WiMAX, how WiMAX works and is it the best option for your wireless internet connection? Get all the answers about the WiMAX technology in this article.

What is WiMAX?

WiMAX – Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a wireless technology for long distances. It is based on IEEE 802.16 – the family of broadband standards for Wireless MAN – Metropolitan Area Networks. 802.16m standard is a newer Wireless MAN technology that supports bigger data rates. 802.16m standard is popularly called WiMAX2. WiMAX, like WiFi is the wireless last mile broadband access.

Wireless MAN is the wireless network that covers larger areas like cities or regions. The name WiMAX was introduced by a WiMAX Forum – organization formed to promote the WiMAX technology. The WiMAX Forum certifies WiMAX equipment and ensures the interoperability between different vendors.

WiMAX vs WiMAX2

Name IEEE
family
Downstream
speed
Upstream
speed
Frequency
bandwidth
Modulation MIMO Notes
WiMAX 802.16 37 Mbps 17 Mbps 10 MHZ TDD 2×2 MIMO
WiMAX2 802.16m 110 Mbps 70 Mbps 20 MHz TDD 2×2 MIMO Fixed clients
on 1 Gbps with multiple channels
WiMAX2 802.16m 183 Mbps 188 Mbps 2×20 MHz FDD 2×2 MIMO
WiMAX2 802.16m 219 Mbps 140 Mbps 20 MHz TDD 4×4 MIMO
WiMAX2 802.16m 365 Mbps 376 Mbps 2X20 MHz FDD 4×4 MIMO

How WiMAX Works?

WiMAX tower

WiMAX tower
Photo courtesy of Intel

WiMAX Components

You know what is WiMAX. But, how WiMAX works? The best way is to start with the WiMAX components. A WiMAX technology has two parts:

  • WiMAX tower
  • WiMAX receiver

WiMAX tower

The WiMAX tower works similar to cell phone towers. It can cover the area of 3000 square miles – almost 8000 square kilometers.

WiMAX receiver

WiMAX receiver

WiMAX receiver


The WiMAX receiver can be a box, PCMCIA – for laptop or PCI – for desktop card. There are also laptops with the built-in WiMAX receiver.

Two Kinds of the WiMAX Service

There are two kinds of WiMAX services:

  • Non-line-of-sight – NLOS WiMAX services
  • Line-of-sight – LOS WiMAX services

If you are interested about WiMAX pros and cons read disadvantages of WiMAX.

NLOS WiMAX Services

The non-line-of-sight service is similar as WiFi. NLOS WiMAX works on lower frequencies – 2 GHz to 11 GHz. The lower frequency spectrum doesn’t have problems with physical obstructions and atmospheric conditions. The range is about 25 square miles or about 65 square kilometers.

More about the WiFi you could read on what does WiFi stand for.

LOS WiMAX Services


With the line-of-sight service there is a fixed outside dish antenna which points directly to the WiMAX tower. The LOS WiMAX service uses higher frequency range from 10 to 66 GHz. Here there are higher speeds and less interference. The range could be 2800 square miles or 9300 square kilometers.

What is WiMAX and how does it works  you could read also on how WiMAX works.