Applications using a fixed wireless solution can be classified as point-to-point or point-to-multipoint. Point-to-point applications include interbuilding connectivity within a campus and microwave backhaul.

Point-to-multipoint applications include

  1. broadband for residential, small office/home office (SOHO), and small- to medium-enterprise (SME) markets,
  2. T1 or fractional T1-like services to businesses, and (3) wireless backhaul for Wi-Fi hotspots.

Consumer and small-business broadband: Clearly, one of the largest applications of WiMAX in the near future is likely to be broadband access for residential, SOHO, and SME markets. Broadband services provided using fixed WiMAX could include high-speed Internet access, telephony services using voice over IP, and a host of other Internet-based applications. Fixed wireless offers several advantages over traditional wired solutions.

These advantages include lower entry and deployment costs faster and easier deployment and revenue realization ability to build out the network as needed lower operational costs for network maintenance, management, and operation and independence from the incumbent carriers.

From a customer premise equipment (CPE) or subscriber station (SS) perspective, two types of deployment models can be used for fixed broadband services to the residential, SOHO, and SME markets.

One model requires the installation of an outdoor antenna at the customer premise the other uses an all-in-one integrated radio modem that the customer can install indoors like traditional DSL or cable modems. Using outdoor antennas improves the radio link and hence the performance of the system. This model allows for greater coverage area per base station, which reduces the density of base stations required to provide broadband coverage, thereby reducing capital expenditure.

Requiring an outdoor antenna, however, means that installation will require a truck-roll with a trained professional and also implies a higher SS cost. Clearly, the two deployment scenarios show a trade-off between capital expenses and operating expense: between base station capital infrastructure costs and SS and installation costs.

In developed countries, such as the United States, the high labor cost of truck-roll, coupled with consumer dislike for outdoor antennas, will likely favor an indoor SS deployment, at least for the residential application.

Further, an indoor self-install SS will also allow a business model that can exploit the retail distribution channel and offer consumers a variety of SS choices. In developing countries, however, where labor is cheaper and aesthetic and zoning considerations are not so powerful, an outdoor-SS deployment model may make more economic sense.

In the United States and other developed countries with good wired infrastructure, fixed wireless broadband is more likely to be used in rural or underserved areas, where traditional means of serving them is more expensive. Services to these areas may be provided by incumbent telephone companies or by smaller players, such as WISPs, or local communities and utilities. It is also possible that competitive service providers could use WiMAX to compete directly with DSL and cable modem providers in urban and suburban markets.

In the United States, the FCC’s August 2005 decision to rollback cable plant sharing needs is likely to increase the appeal of fixed wireless solutions to competitive providers as they look for alternative means to reach subscribers. The competitive landscape in the United States is such that traditional cable TV companies and telephone companies are competing to offer a full bundle of telecommunications and entertainment services to customers.

In this environment, satellite TV companies may be pushed to offering broadband services including voice and data in order to stay competitive with the telephone and cable companies, and may look to WiMAX as a potential solution to achieve this.

T1 emulation for business: The other major opportunity for fixed WiMAX in developed markets is as a solution for competitive T1/E1, fractional T1/E1, or higher-speed services for the business market. Given that only a small fraction of commercial buildings worldwide have access to fiber, there is a clear need for alternative high-bandwidth solutions for enterprise customers.

In the business market, there is demand for symmetrical T1/E1 services that cable and DSL have so far not met the technical requirements for. Traditional telecom services continue to serve this demand with relatively little competition. Fixed broadband solutions using WiMAX could potentially compete in this market and trump landline solutions in terms of time to market, pricing, and dynamic provisioning of bandwidth.