In the wake of a disaster: WiMax to the rescue

Hurricane Katrina left large areas without radio communication, and it is very likely that most, if not all, of the fiber backbones and telephone switches in these areas have been destroyed beyond repair. If so, restoring communication will take many weeks. Relying on satellite communication, such as that offered by Iridium and Globalstar, would help but would be of limited use because it is slow and the handsets are expensive (both companies shipped thousands of their handsets to emergency workers in the region).

The solution? Fixed WiMax. Mobile WiMax gear, too, could be rushed into service. Fixed wireless backbones would link operational fiber hubs dozens of miles away, offering fast and inexpensive voice and data communication for emergency personnel and affected citizens alike.

DailyWireless provides a detailed and useful list of 802.16-2004 and 802.16e gear now available from different vendors, gear which could be deployed tomorrow. Among these vendors: Adaptix; Airspan; Alvarion; Aperto; Cambridge Broadband; Navini; Proxim/Terabeam; and Wi-LAN. Also available for quick deployment in the ravaged areas are fixed wireless backbones using 802.16-2004 or proprietary systems using frequencies above 10 GHz with more than 1 GHz of bandwidth (for example, Proxim/Terabeam Tsunami wireless Gigabit Ethernet bridge). Towerstream and DragonWave have gear operating in the licensed LMDs band (28 GHz-31 GHz). Terabeam has radios in the unlicensed 60 GHz band, as does Gigabeam. Gigabeam also has 1 Gbps wireless backhaul gear in the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz radio spectrum for point-to-point wireless.

The WiMax Forum leadership should snap into action and call on its members to do what Iridium and Globalstar are already doing. The Gotcha! crowd is predictably busy making a mountain out of the molehill that is the Forum's decision to delay interoperability testing by a few weeks. What better answer to these naysayers than a straightforward demonstration that WiMax, in its various pre-standard forms, is a ready, versatile, and useful technology capable of stepping in to offer real help to real people in real need.

For more on what WiMax can do to help in the relief effort in the Gulf:
- see this DailyWireless analysis
- see this comprehensive Unstrung guide to WiMax's who's-doing-what

PLUS: What hi-tech companies do to help in the crisis. Report

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