Linux Is Dropping WiMAX Support

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It's no loss. There is a reason why you have probably never seen a WiMAX device or heard of it, WiMAX was a wireless last-mile Internet solution mostly used in a few rural areas in a limited number of countries between 2005 and 2010. There is very little use for it today so it is almost natural that Linux is phasing out support for WiMAX and the one WiMAX device it supports.

written by 윤채경 (Yoon Chae-kyung). published 2020-10-28last edited 2020-10-28

Avian Carrier Backup link.jpg
WiMAX is a wireless protocol, much like IP by Avian Carriers except that it has less bandwidth and significantly lower latency.

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a set of wireless standards that were used to provide last-mile Internet connectivity where DSL and other solutions were unavailable. WiMAX can work over long distances (up to 50 km), something WiFi can't. The initial design could provide around 25 megabit/s downstream, which was competitive when WiMAX base-stations and modems become widely available around 2005. That changed around 2010 when 4G/LTE become widely available.

The WiMAX Forum, who maintains the WiMAX standard, tried staying relevant with a updated standard called WiMAX 2 in 2011. Some equipment for it was made, but it never became a thing. WiMAX was pretty much dead by the time WiMAX 2 arrived.

The standard NetworkManager utility GNU/Linux distributions come with supported WiMAX until 2015. The Linux kernel still supports it and exactly one WiMAX device from Intel as of Linux 5.9, but that's about to change.

SUSE-employed kernel developer Arnd Bergmann sent patch-set to the Linux Kernel Mailing list on October 27th that moves the Linux kernels WiMAX drivers to the "staging" area. That special kernel configuration sub-menu is usually used to hold drivers that are on their way into the kernel, not the other way around. Arnd Bergmann sent this comment along with the patches:

"There are no known users of this driver as of October 2020, and it will be removed unless someone turns out to still need it in future releases.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_WiMAX_networks, there have been many public wimax networks, but it appears that these entries are all stale, after everyone has migrated to LTE or discontinued their service altogether.

NetworkManager appears to have dropped userspace support in 2015 https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id{{=}}747846, the www.linuxwimax.org site had already shut down earlier.

WiMax is apparently still being deployed on airport campus networks ("AeroMACS"), but in a frequency band that was not supported by the old Intel 2400m (used in Sandy Bridge laptops and earlier), which is the only driver using the kernel's wimax stack."

Arnd Bergmann on the LKML
October 27th, 2020

The Linux kernels WiMAX support was limited to just one device under Device Drivers ▸ Network device support ▸ WiMAX Wireless Broadband devices: The "Intel Wireless WiMAX Connection 2400 over USB. If you happen to be using Linux, WiMAX and that particular Intel device then you're out of luck if you don't speak up and tell Arnd Bergmann that you still need this driver. The chance of that being the case if fairly slim.

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