If you haven’t been paying attention to the WiMAX ruckus of late, it’s worth taking a moment to get up to date on a few of the highlights. In a nutshell, WiMAX is a wireless technology designed to provide faster broadband speeds for mobile devices of all kinds. Lots of folks are referring to it as a third broadband pipe, separate from today’s wireline networks and from existing cellular broadband networks like EVDO.
As a consumer, I would love to see WiMAX successfully implemented, not only because I want a fast, portable Internet connection, but also because the WiMAX model is far different from today’s mobile broadband set-up. If Sprint gets its network deployed (more on that in a moment), consumers would be able to buy any WiMAX-certified device on the open market and plug in to Sprint’s service. Sprint has even said consumers wouldn’t have to sign a contract, but could buy service for a week or even a day.
There is a very interesting post over at GigaOM about what this new model could mean for the broadband paradigm. With the economics of WiMAX-like networks so different from 3G networks, companies could actually subsidize the connection fee in the cost of a subscription service. A consumer could buy a WiMAX-certified media player at retail, for example, and then get a “free” broadband connection when signing up for some sort of content subscription.
Of course, all of these speculations are dependent on actually getting a WiMAX network up and running. Globally it’s happening in several places, but here in the US the road has been a little rocky. Given Sprint’s financial woes, there’s been a lot of skepticism as to whether the company can support a nationwide network roll-out. We may have turned a corner yesterday, however, with the news that Sprint and and Clearwire are once again in talks about working together to make a US WiMAX network a reality.
Stay tuned. We should see some interesting developments, one way or another, in 2008.
Disclosure: I work for Motorola, which has been a significant proponent of WiMAX technology.