The emerging WiMAX industry is comprised of numerous stakeholders, including government regulators, trade associations, spectrum owners, equipment vendors, chipmakers and network service providers. Network service providers may include fixed-line telecom operators, mobile telephone operators, Internet ISPs and start-up companies specialised in WiMAX.
Strictly speaking, WiMAX (an acronym for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is not a technology, but rather a generalisation of specific products or services that conform to the IEEE 802.16 family of standards, and a certification process by the WiMAX Forum.
The industry that has emerged to capitalise on wireless broadband that utilises the 802.16 standards has thus adopted the name WiMAX.
A characteristic that distinguishes WiMAX from other broadband or wireless technologies is that it utilises radio spectrum very efficiently to enable communication with devices at high data rates, and under favourable conditions can transmit signals over great distances, (up to 50 kilometres).
Radio frequencies that can be utilised by WiMAX are bands centred roughly on 2300 ~ 2400 Mhz, 2500 ~ 2690 Mhz, and 3400 ~ 3600 Mhz. These are designated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as bands that require licensing from telecommunications regulators. Licenses are typically acquired at public auction in the country where the license is granted, and for a term of use up to 25 years or granted for fixed terms for a specified annual fee.
In this respect, WiMAX is akin to GSM, also a standard that uses licensed radio frequencies for transmission often in large cells. Use of licensed spectrum to ensure a high quality of service, and the ability to transmit over a considerable distance are some of the key factors that differentiate WiMAX from another wireless technology known as Wi-Fi, which uses un-licensed or free radio frequencies, and can only operate in pico cells (up to 50 metres) which is commensurate with the Personal Area Network concept implicit in Wi-Fi.
In the WiMAX industry, licensed radio spectrum is one of the key drivers of value for a license-holder. A spectrum license permits a company to operate its transmitters within a certain spectrum range, in much the same way as a radio station is licensed to operate within certain radio frequencies and can be assured of protection from interference from other transmissions.
As WiMAX has become a proven standard and networks are being deployed around the world, WiMAX has now advanced from a development stage industry to a stage of pre-launch and marketing. The opportunity that is presented to investors is to enter this early stage of the industry as it begins development of business models that will take WiMAX through to maturity, in much the same way that GSM became a global industry.