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Report from the WCA Symposium: January 11-14, 2005: Applications for Broadband Fixed Wireless (WiMAX) may include last mile distribution of video content
By Alan J. Weissberger (aweissberger@
The IEEE 802.16-2004 WiMAX technology provides wireless “last mile” broadband access in the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) with performance comparable to or better than traditional DSL, Cable or T1/E1 leased line services. The term MAN here refers to radius of coverage, rather then to population density. In fact WiMAX technology is being used both in rural and metropolitan/urban areas.
Up until recently, the WiMAX applications have been focused in three areas:
1. Wireless DSL for Internet access - the focus here has been primarily for rural areas with low population density or in developing countries with no wire-line infrastructure. In some cases, the WiMAX technology can cost-effectively meet the requirements of small and medium size businesses not only in low population density environments, but also in urban areas competing with DSL and leased line services.
2. Small and Medium Business- This market segment is very often underserved in areas other than the highly competitive big city environments. But even there, speed of deployment and built in QOS are key advantages of the WiMAX technology. The applications range from higher speed (1.5M to 6Mb/s) Internet access, DS1 private line replacement, and wireless Ethernet MANs. VoIP over WiMAX is an emerging application for this market segment – one that Covad Communications is pursuing on a wholesale basis.
3. WiFi Hot Spot Backhaul - WiFi hot spots are being
installed worldwide at a rapid pace. One of the obstacles for continued
hot spot growth however, is the
Recently, a fourth application has emerged: AT&T and other carriers have been interested in WiMAX to extend their long haul private line and data services (e.g. n x DS1, Frame Relay, Ethernet) to business customers. In doing so, the long distance carriers would save considerably on the access charges they would need to pay to local exchange carriers that connected to their networks. Please refer to:
Other potential uses of WiMAX technology include Cellular Backhaul (using WiMAX as an overlay network with IEEE 802.16 based point-to-point links sharing the PMP infrastructure).and Public Safety Services and Private Networks (Support for nomadic services and the ability to provide ubiquitous coverage in a metropolitan area provides a tool for law enforcement, fire protection and other public safety organizations enabling them to maintain critical communications under a variety of adverse conditions).
Of more interest to Viodi View readers is the use of WiMAX technology to deliver video content. This is a dark horse, untapped area that could emerge as an alternative to the hybrid fiber coax architectures of the MSOs and the Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) or Fiber to the Node (FTTN) architectures from the telcos.
According to Roger Marks, chair of the IEEE 802.16 WG, cable operators participating in ITU-T SG 9 are interested in the WiMAX technology as a last mile distribution network for video programming. This includes conventional cable TV as well as video on demand. The business model for WiMAX in this case could be either as a VoD overlay wireless network to an existing coax cable network with no upstream capability, or as a hybrid fiber-wireless network for new buildouts that are not presently passed by the cable TV network. The key issues are whether there will be sufficient bandwidth available to support multiple TV channels per home (assuming the use of the latest MPEG video compression technology), whether the network will be ultra reliable and available, and cost effectivess.
What about triple play services- voice, video and Internet- to homes? If one assumes MPEG-4 compression then broadcast-quality video could be delivered at a about 1.1 Mbps. If WiMAX could provide 6 Mbps per home, there would be sufficient bandwidth for at least three TV channels, high speed Internet access, and two or three VoIP connections. Depending on distance (from home to base station) and LOS/ NLOS, up to six or seven homes could be served by one WiMAX base station, making the economics attractive for delivery of triple play services to residences not served by hybrid fiber coax or FTTP/FTTN. However, if more advanced video services are required, e.g. PPV, HDTV, then perhaps 25 or 30 Mbps would be needed per home. In that case, there would be only one home per base station and the triple play service delivery might not be cost effective.
For more on Triple Play Based on 802.16 WiMAX, please refer to:
In the WCAI Symposium session, Broadband Wireless: A "Must"
for Content Distribution, Howard T. Liu, Director, Digital
Network Architecture, for the Walt Disney Company stated
that both Broadband over Power Lines and (fixed) WiMAX -at 30Mbps- were
being considered as technologies for media content distribution to home
gateways. Behind the gateway, WiFi and Ultra Wide Band technologies would
be used to deliver the content to the devices.
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