You're here probably because you would like to get to know the difference between WiFi and WiMAX. As you probably know both of them are communication technologies used to deliver Internet service wirelessly. As you can see – both of the technologies serve the same purpose. However, there are a lot of differences between them. At first, let's take a general look at both technologies..
Probably most of us use, or at least have heard about WiFi. It's one of the technologies that surrounds us nowadays. It is used to deliver wireless Internet service on a pretty short distance. The device that delivers the service might be as simple as a router working as an access point, which has a range of about 20m indoors and a greater range outdoors. Of course the range can be increased using antennas (the range usually won't exceed 500m).
WiMAX is a technology that can be described as “a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL”. That obviously points out that the range of WiMAX is huge and offers a metropolitan area network with a huge signal radius of about 50 km.
Now, let's take a look at the differences between WiFi and WiMAX.
As I've mentioned above, WiFi networks are limited when it comes to range. They provide access only on a local level, like in an apartment or in a coffee shop. Of course one can expand a WiFi network by placing many overlapping hot spots in some distance between them, but obviously one can't cover a whole large city with those devices. The WiFi networks aren't ment for that kind of purpose. WiMAX on the other hand is a long-range system, that covers many kilometers.
It's also good to know, that WiFi networks use unlicensed spectrum. That means that the WiFi connection could be disrupted when there are other devices working in the same area and frequency. Let's just say that the most popular devices that use the 2.4 GHz band (the one that WiFi is using) are: microwave ovens, security cames and Bluetooth devices. WiMAX uses both licensed and unlicensed spectrum and when it comes to a licensed spectrum you can be pretty sure that there shouldn't be any disruptions during the connection.
QoS (quality of service) mechanisms
WiMAX uses a mechanism based on the base station (the station that provides the signal) and the end-user device. That means that every user connected to the network gets and receives data with the same frequency (no one gets any advantage over the others). When it comes to WiFi networks, each computer connected to a specific wireless access point is competing for access point's attention. Because of that the closer the device is to the access point the higher priority it gets, which effects in rather low throughput for distant devices.
I hope that I've given you some insights about the difference between WiFi and WiMAX. Both of them are wireless networks that deliver (in most cases) Internet service. However, both of those standards are designed to fulfill different tasks. Sometimes WiFi and WiMAX are used as complementary devices. One can connect to the WiMAX metropolitan network using a WiMAX subscriber unit and integrate it with an access point that will provide WiFi access within ones home.