Prepaid WiMAX - The 4G Technology That Lost The War!
What is prepaid WiMAX, and
why do you
want to know about it? First, I need to let you know that
WiMAX ultimately died before it even took off, so the information here
is for those interested in the evolution of technology, and who have a
thirst for wireless knowledge!
Before even talking about
WiMAX, we'll need to backup a bit and answer the question "What is
WiMAX?"! The name sounds mysteriously like Wi-Fi, so you
asking yourself if these two technologies are
that question, and demystify what it is and why it exists, we'll break
it down with the following series of questions. Needless to
WiMAX was the first 4G solution commercially available in the
What does WiMAX stand for?
stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access,
It's an organization that manages the technology
on which WiMAX is based (IEEE 802.16). Though I haven't seen
mentioned anywhere else, the name kind of makes me think of "Maximum
Wi-Fi." Don't you think? Although there's no direct
connection between WiMAX and such an interpretation, I think it does
help to think about how the two technologies are related. In
other words, think of Wi-Fi as short range like in your home or a
shop, while WiMAX is more in the range of city-wide; i.e. maxing out
your Wi-Fi connection. Let's dig into this a little more with
What's the difference
Wi-Fi and WiMAX?
they're based on related technologies, they are different.
operates on the 802.11 standard, while WiMAX functions on 802.16.
So what does this really mean in terms of how you, the user,
use the technology? It means that Wi-Fi has a limited range
100-300 feet (or 30-100m). That's why when you have a
wireless network at home, you may have trouble accessing your Internet
connection if your wireless router is in one corner of the house, and
you're downstairs in the opposite corner of the house. Or why
might have trouble picking up a strong and consistent signal from your
neighbors (assuming they're letting you share their unsecured WiFi
On the other hand, WiMAX
allow for a much longer range of access of 30 miles (or 50 km) for
fixed stations. So, if you wanted to cover your entire
neighborhood, for example, you would need to have a Wi-Fi router every
100 feet to ensure that you could travel anywhere in the area without
losing a signal. And that doesn't even account for the fact
switching between wireless routers doesn't exactly work
To the contrary, you might only need one WiMAX base station
cover your entire neighborhood! Assuming of course that the
does not have a radius of more than 30 miles.
What about speed?
addition to the extended range that WiMAX has, it also offers higher
data rates. So with WiMAX, we're now finally talking about
that equal what you would get from your home cable or DSL Internet
provider; only now it's completely mobile! What this means is
that you're taking the speed of your home connection with you on the
road. This technology was the first commercially available
mobile broadband offering that allowed customers to watch
download music, and do all of the things we're used to doing at home
without having to worry about finding a coffee shop with Wi-Fi access,
or having to think about the speed limitations of 3G.
Lastly, WiMAX technology has less interference than does
which means that you're generally getting a more consistent
Here's a great illustration of
the how the
speed of WiMAX compares to other technologies. I found this
on a very early version of
the Clear.com website, and thought it was so great that I'd include it
here. You can visit Prepaid
page for more details on mobile broadband
technology and speeds.
Summary of Advantages
bandwidth/data rates than Wi-Fi or 3G mobile broadband.
longer distances than Wi-Fi.
Summary of Disadvantages
standard technology - Unlike
3G technologies (and now 4G LTE), which are owned and controlled by
(ex. CDMA is controlled by Qualcomm), WiMAX is an open standard.
This means that anyone can build hardware for it, which means
more competition and lower prices (as well as no additional cost for
availability - Clear was the only provider, and offered
service only in a limited number of select cities.
Going Prepaid WiMAX
expected to be mainstream - LTE (Long Term Evolution) was expected to
the global standard for 4G wireless. This is what ultimately
led to the death of WiMAX in favor of the worldwide standard of 4G LTE.
is the theme throughout this entire website, signing a contract for
wireless service is not desirable for a number of reasons.
Particularly for WiMAX, which was an unproven standard.
lock yourself into a contract when you don't know if you'll like the
service or whether it will work the way you expect it to, or aren't
happy with the coverage? No contract, prepaid WiMAX really
option. Fortunately, Clear provided
prepaid WiMAX plans. Unfortunately, Clear ultimately didn't
survive, and closed shop after 4G LTE took hold.
WiMAX was the first commercially available 4G technology. It
speed compared to the prevailing technology at the time,
and the promise of wide access at costs comparable, and even lower
than existing slower 3G technologies at the time. However,
even before it
nationwide coverage, Clear (and Sprint) announced that it would be
moving to LTE technology, which won out as the 4G standard technology.
Clear and Sprint's best efforts to promote WiMAX as the next generation
standard, it failed, and is now a defunct technology. I've
kept this information on the site as an interesting historical
reference, of which you can learn more by visiting LTE
- The 4G
Network Technology Standard.