A commonly-held misconception is that WiMAX will deliver 70 Mbit/s over 50 kilometers (~31 miles). In reality, WiMAX can either operate at higher bitrates or over longer distances but not both: operating at the maximum range of 50 km increases bit error rate and thus results in a much lower bitrate. Conversely, reducing the range (to <1m) allows a device to operate at higher bitrates. There are no known examples of WiMAX services being delivered at bit rates over around 3 Mbit/s.
Typically, fixed WiMAX networks have a higher-gain directional antenna installed near the client (customer) which results in greatly increased range and throughput. Mobile WiMAX networks are usually made of indoor "Customer-premises equipment" (CPE) such as desktop modems, laptops with integrated Mobile WiMAX or other Mobile WiMAX devices. Mobile WiMAX devices typically have omnidirectional antennae which are of lower-gain compared to directional antennas but are more portable. In current deployments, the throughput may reach 2 Mbit/s symmetric at 10 km with fixed WiMAX and a high gain antenna. It is also important to consider that a throughput of 2 Mbit/s can mean 2 Mbit/s, symmetric simultaneously, 1 Mbit/s symmetric or some asymmetric mix (e.g. 0.5 Mbit/s downlink and 1.5 Mbit/s uplink or 1.5 Mbit/s downlink and 0.5 Mbit/s uplink), each of which required slightly different network equipment and configurations. Higher-gain directional antennas can be used with a WiMAX network with range and throughput benefits but the obvious loss of practical mobility.
Like most wireless systems, available bandwidth is shared between users in a given radio sector, so performance could deteriorate in the case of many active users in a single sector. In practice, most users will have a range of 2-3 Mbit/s services and additional radio cards will be added to the base station to increase the number of users that may be served as required.
Because of these limitations, the general consensus is that WiMAX requires various granular and distributed network architectures to be incorporated within the IEEE 802.16 task groups. This includes wireless mesh, grids, network remote station repeaters which can extend networks and connect to backhaul.