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A Review of WiMAX Technology

I have been teaching myself about WiMax technology  and have started a “living document” over on my Google Docs Drive.   I am setting this to a public “research paper” so anyone else interested in learning about this can review.

The Highlights

WiMAX is NOT the same as “4G”, at least not as it is thought of in the common American vernacular.   Most people mean “4G/LTE” not “4G WiMAX” when they say 4G.

Think of WiMAX as WiFi on steroids.

The specification is officially called 802.16, much like the WiFi 802.11 standard.   It too has suffixes like 802.16d/e similar to WiFi’s 802.11b/g/n which many people are familiar with.

Many countries, like Korea, have a sophisticated WiMAX network.  Many consumer devices, such as cell phones and tablets, that are sold in these countries have WiMAX built in.   Very much like American devices having WiFi built in.    Many devices that have WiMAX have WiFi and LTE or CDMA built in (wow, that is a lot of antennas and signal processors!)

As last mile (the piece from the hub on the street to your house) services fall behind the demand curve in America more & more people will be looking at WiMAX solutions as they come available.  Clear Communications has Clear WiMAX in a number of cities, as does Sprint.  As cable & legacy telephone companies continue to fail at meeting customer needs (I’m looking at YOU AT&T, Comcast, and Knology!) this will become far more prolific.

Building A WiMAX Network

Unfortunately the starting installation costs run nearly $15k for a single cell (not cell phone, though that is where the common name comes from, a cell is a radio signal “footprint” or range in which you can “see” it).     However, do it right and you can get an initial cell that covers 8 miles or MORE with 4Mbps to 30Mbps throughput.      Then you need to pay someone for connection to the Internet backbone, just  like putting WiFi in your home.    In Charleston a solid Fiber connection runs $100/Mb with price drops not coming until the 10Mbps level.      

However I still hope to either find funding or get enough cash on hand to build my first experimental Free Public WiMAX cell in Mount Pleasant.    Who knows, maybe Kick Starter or some other crowd funding can help.

I’d love to see  a donation based system where high speed internet is ubiquitous and DISRUPTIVE to the incumbent communication carriers.  In Charleston, at least, home Internet is still exceedingly expensive and quality of service sucks.

Let’s do something about that!

The Document

My more formal notes will go in here.   This is far from complete and I will be adding to it as I learn more and consider building out my own network.

Can’t see it in an iframe?   View my “A Review of WiMAX Technology” here.

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Charleston High Speed Internet – Part 2.5a

A client told me tonight that they are switching Internet Service Providers in Charleston.  They are dumping Windstream because they had been “been bundling 2-T1’s into one and calling it two” and replacing them with DeltaCom because they had a 4.5M Internet service. Yikes!  DeltaCom scares me. They almost killed my last company with a 10 day outage on my primary redundant T1 lines, but that is another story.   The interesting part is that they are pretending they are even selling something different at all.

Bundled T1s

As for Windstream bundling 2 T1s, that is how it works until you get to a higher class service.    It is called bonded T’s and is the only option for data services over copper wire until you get up to something like DS3 (45M).   I’m curious what DeltaCom is providing.  I’m certain it is bonded T1s exactly like Windstream, they are just giving it a new name.  They’ve just added another T1 to the bonding group (each T1 is 1.5M), which any T1 provider can do.  In fact in the good ‘ol days… literally over a decade ago, that is how you got “big fast Internet”.  You just kept adding 1.5M chunks of T1 until you used up the entire telco bundle coming down your street.   These days real cities offer fiber everywhere and the few places without use cable so this sort of thing is rare.

Charleston Area ISPs

I’m sure it will work out fine for my client, but these data communications providers in Charleston really irk me.    I am somewhat knowledgeable about this stuff & they still try to convince me how their subpar & overpriced service is “different”.    T1 services are nearly 50 years old and survives only by government mandate & scare tactics of “ohh…. only T1 is truly reliable” (true in 2001, not true in 2011).   And the fact that all the big telcos have billions invested in that infrastructure that they still need to recoup.   Selling old crappy services for 10x what they are worth really aggravates me.  Especially when I know how arbitrary the whole price model is from the bottom up through the incumbent carrier and the competitive local exchange carriers.    Even more aggravating is that bad overpriced Internet services affects everyone these days, especially my client base, and we have so few choices in Charleston right now.

Internet service in Charleston is horrible compared to “big boy towns”.   When we moved into Wando Park we only had DSL (unreliable and slow) or T1 available, which is why I had numerous discussions with the town, Comcast, Knology, and AT&T about pulling fiber or cable to our area last summer.  When everyone started saying “not enough interest in that area of town”, I actually looked into getting VC funding for deploying WiMAX in small cities. WiMAX is basically a big bad-ass wireless router that covers an entire section of town (11 miles+) with 100Mbps service.   No more wires & true high speed everywhere.

On a bright note, there is progress in Charleston with general connectivity if not on the pricing front.  In the past 12 months we’ve gone from having DSL (copper pair) and T1 (expensive copper pair) to also having business class cable Internet at the office park.  At my home, just 6 miles away, we have gone from DSL and a single cable provider to having TWO cable providers on the same street and there is even rumor that the new provider (Knology) pulled fiber alongside that new cable line this past fall.   Can we possibly have the option of Knology’s FIOS eqiuvalent service in a Charleston neighborhood before 2020?

Copper Lines? It’s The Second Decade Of the New Millenium!

Can you tell this stuff gets me going?   Damn Internet Service companies!

I only hope my customer doesn’t get bamboozled into signing a typical 3-year contract for 4.5M internet at $800/month.   The fact that anyone is even allowed to still sell that kind of service going into the 2nd decade of the new millenium is truly sad.