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802.16 is a group of broadband wireless communications standards for metropolitan area networks (MANs) developed by a working group of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The original 802.16 standard, published in December 2001, specified fixed point-to-multipoint broadband wireless systems operating in the 10-66 GHz licensed spectrum. An amendment, 802.16a, approved in January 2003, specified non-line-of-sight extensions in the 2-11 GHz spectrum, delivering up to 70 Mbps at distances up to 31 miles. Officially called the WirelessMAN™ specification, 802.16 standards are expected to enable multimedia applications with wireless connection and, with a range of up to 30 miles, provide a viable last mile technology.
An earlier group of IEEE standards, the 802.11 specifications, provide a wireless alternative to Ethernet LANs (local area networks); 802.16 standards are expected to complement these by enabling a wireless alternative to expensive T1 links connecting offices to each other and the Internet. Although the first amendments to the standard are only for fixed wireless connections, a further amendment, 802.16e, is expected to enable connections for mobile devices.
A coalition of wireless industry companies, including Intel, Proxim and Nokia, banded together in April 2001 to form WiMAX, an 802.16 advocacy group. The organization's purpose is to actively promote and certify compatibility and interoperability of devices based on the 802.16 specification, and to develop such devices for the marketplace. According to the WiMAX Forum, the first products based on 802.16 technology are expected to hit the market in 2004.