WiMAX refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.16 family of wireless-networks standards ratified by the WiMAX Forum. (Similarly, Wi-Fi refers to interoperable implementations of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standards certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance.) WiMAX Forum certification allows vendors to sell fixed or mobile products as WiMAX certified, thus ensuring a level of interoperability with other certified products, as long as they fit the same profile.

The original IEEE 802.16 standard (now called "Fixed WiMAX") was published in 2001. WiMAX adopted some of its technology from WiBro, a service marketed in Korea.

Mobile WiMAX (originally based on 802.16e-2005) is the revision that was deployed in many countries, and basis of future revisions such as 802.16m-2011.

WiMAX is sometimes referred to as "Wi-Fi on steroids" and can be used for a number of applications including broadband connections, cellular backhaul, hotspots, etc. It is similar to Wi-Fi, but it can enable usage at much greater distances.

The bandwidth and range of WiMAX make it suitable for the following potential applications:

  • Providing portable mobile broadband connectivity across cities and countries through a variety of devices.
  • Providing a wireless alternative to cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) for "last mile" broadband access.
  • Providing data, telecommunications (VoIP) and IPTV services (triple play).
  • Providing a source of Internet connectivity as part of a business continuity plan.
  • Smart grids and metering