WiMAX actually stands for “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access” and is a new type of wireless high speed internet access technology with the potential to offer broad, reliable coverage. In theory, WiMAX could potentially replace the need for 3G, 4G or other types of phone-based web access as well as Wi-Fi, and possibly even the need for a dedicated home broadband service.

WiMAX works a bit differently. A WiMAX network requires a system of towers, very similar to the common mobile phone towers that we see currently spread across the country. However, one difference is that WiMAX needs far fewer towers to be effective; one tower can potentially cover an area as large as 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 square miles), so the technology does not require the landscape to be dotted with more telecoms towers.

WiMAX works on essentially the same principle as Wi-Fi – sending signals that can carry data wirelessly using radio waves. However, Wi-Fi is constrained by a having a small field in which it is effective and the signal grows weaker as it has to pass through solid objects such as walls. Wi-Fi is also still not widely available across the UK

The major benefit of WiMAX is the significant range of access that the technology can provide to users. Currently, standard Wi-Fi services usually have a range of less than 50 metres; a WiMAX antenna would be able to send data through a non-line of sight service up to eight kilometres (five miles) away; from a direct line of sight connection, signals could be received almost 50 kilometres (30 miles) away. Signals should remain clear and strong for that distance, providing fast and reliable internet access from a significantly reduced infrastructure. Internet access should also be measurably faster than it is across today’s Wi-Fi connections.

Rio Adnett