Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access

What Does Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access Mean?

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a telecommunications protocol describing fixed and fully mobile Internet access services. The protocol conforms to certain parts of the IEEE 802.16 Standard.


Coined by its namesake industry group, the WiMAX Forum, which was formed in 2001 as a nonprofit organization created to promote the adoption of WiMAX-compatible products and services, and certify the interoperability of WiMAX products, subsequently designated as WiMAX Forum Certified.

Techopedia Explains Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access

Consumers are most likely to encounter WiMAX products and services in “last mile” applications. WiMAX allows ISPs and carriers to provide Internet connectivity to homes and offices without requiring the use of physical wiring (copper, cable, etc.) leading to the customer’s premises.

WiMAX is often compared to Wi-Fi; both have wireless Internet connectivity at their core, and the technologies are complementary. Primary similarities and differences include:

  • WiMAX’s range is measured in kilometers, while Wi-Fi is measured in meters and local in nature. WiMAX’s reliability and range make it suitable for the provision of Internet access covering large metropolitan areas.
  • Wi-Fi uses an unlicensed spectrum, while WiMAX’s spectrum could be licensed or unlicensed.
  • Wi-Fi is more popular in end-user devices such as laptops, desktops and smart phones. Accordingly, WiMAX service providers usually provide the customer with a WiMAX subscriber unit. This unit connects to the provider’s network and offers Wi-Fi accessibility and convenience to the customer within the Wi-Fi range.

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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.