Enthusiasts of WiMAX are of the view that this powerful technology will soon overtake WiFi, which looks feeble. This need not be the case, as both can have their separate applications. For the coming few years at least, it is more likely that the two technologies will remain in complementary roles.
Role of Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi technology is widely available currently and this is a big advantage. Wi-Fi is commonly used in public places like hotels, restaurants and airports. This application is likely to continue for many more years.
Another advantage WiFi currently has is that integrated 802.11b/g/a laptop radios are already widely available. Thus Wi-Fi now has a growing base of consumers.
Currently customer premises equipment (CPE) receivers are able to get signals from local transmitters, but this does not take care of the connectivity of other equipment in an office environment. And when the WiMAX chips are market ready, the first models are more likely to be used in laptops. These chips with their high power consumption are not easy to be adapted to PDAs and phones. It will take some more time till such version of WiMAX chips are ready.
On the other hand, affordable WiMAX radios are still being developed. It is quite possible that the units in the coming years will have dual roles as Wi-Fi and WiMAX receptors. As WiMAX standard gains momentum and drives cost reductions, the MAN portion of Wi-Fi is likely to get replaced with WiMAX in business hotspots. This means that WiMAX users will be able to access the Wi-Fi component in their workplace as well as the citywide WiMAX mobile network.
Research conducted by ABI indicates that WiMAX and Wi-Fi are likely to coexist and perform complementary roles. WiMAX can provide backhaul to Wi-Fi access areas as an alternative to cable and DSL connections. This is a very likely picture in areas where wired connectivity is impractical or expensive. Underdeveloped countries and large rural regions are examples in case.
Probably, there will also be other LAN technology standards such as Bluetooth, Ultrawideband and 802.11 in the picture, as these offer excellent viability in short range hotspot networks. These technologies will grow along with the Wi-Fi and WiMAX standards, the ultimate aim being seamless connectivity across short range data networks, cellular networks and WiMAX citywide networks.