What is 802.16m?

Kurt Inman

802.16m is a technical specification for high-speed wireless broadband networking. It is one of several Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.16 standards. The technologies described by 802.16 are also known as Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX™). These technologies are used by mobile phones and computers for two-way audio, video and Internet communications. They are also used by service providers to carry Internet, television and telephone services to homes and businesses.

802.16m is a technical specification for high-speed wireless broadband networking.
802.16m is a technical specification for high-speed wireless broadband networking.

WiMAX™ is based on the original IEEE 802.16 standard started in 1999 for a wireless Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). The official name for the standard is WirelessMAN® but it has been commercialized to WiMAX™. The most often implemented WiMAX™ technology in the late 2000s was WiMAX™ Release 1. It is based on the 802.16-2004 standard for fixed devices and the 802.16e-2005 amendment for mobile devices. This standard was revised again for both fixed and mobile devices as 802.16-2009.

Release 2 of WiMAX™ increases the theoretical connection speed for fixed devices from 40 Megabits per second (Mbps) to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps). It also increases the mobile device theoretical data rate to 100 Mbps. Release 2 is based on the 802.16m specification and is also known as WirelessMAN-Advanced®. Like earlier 802.16 specifications, it standardizes the media access control and physical layers of the wireless technology. Certification of WiMAX™ broadband products is managed by the WiMAX Forum®, a non-profit wireless industry alliance.

Prior to 802.16 and 802.16m, the most frequently implemented wireless standard was IEEE 802.11, also known as Wi-Fi™. First developed in 1997, its technology was primarily designed for wireless local area networks (LANs). 802.11 is a local connectionless technology where all users randomly compete for access point bandwidth. In contrast, 802.16 is a long-range connection-oriented system that does not allow a user to transmit until given a channel by the controller. 802.11 is often part of a WiMAX™ implementation, with 802.16 bringing data to a gateway and 802.11 distributing it to individual computers.

WiMAX™ and 802.16m are designed to be alternatives to Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and Cable Internet services. Their goal is to provide Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), television and mobile broadband web access over the air waves. Fixed-device WiMAX™ can also provide fast network infrastructure to otherwise infeasible locations.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approved 802.16m as an International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) Advanced technology in late 2010. The standard is backward-compatible with WiMAX™ Release 1. This means existing users should be able to communicate with 802.16m equipment.

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