A commonly-held misconception is that WiMAX will deliver 70 Mbit/s over 50 kilometres (~31 miles). In reality, WiMAX can only do one or the other: operating at the maximum range of 50 km increases bit error rate and thus results in a much lower bitrate. Conversely, reducing the range allows a device to operate at bitrates closer to 70 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 omni-directional antennae which are of lower-gain compared to directional antennas but are more portable. In practice, this means that in a line-of-sight environment with a portable Mobile WiMAX CPE, speeds of 10 Mbit/s at 6 miles/10 km could be delivered. However, in urban environments they may not have line-of-sight and therefore users may only receive 10 Mbit/s over 2 km. In current deployments, throughputs are often closer to 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 Mobile 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, many users will have a range of 2-, 4-, 6-, 8-, 10- or 12 Mbit/s services and additional radio cards will be added to the base station to increase the capacity as required.
Because of this, various granular and distributed network architectures are being incorporated into WiMAX through independent development and within the IEEE 802.16j mobile multi-hop relay (MMR) task group. This includes wireless mesh, grids, network remote station repeaters which can extend networks and connect to backhaul.