Why you’ll need a bigger belt size with Wi-Max

The dream of the ultimate do-it-all device is dead thanks to Wi-Max, says Toronto-based QuickPlay Media Inc. co-founder Wayne Purboo.

In fact Wi-Max – the 4G communications platform that promises five times the bandwidth mobile consumers can currently cram onto their palm-sized LCD screens – will likely spur the creation of an array of devices.

Purboo jokes he’ll need a bigger belt size just to tote around all his electronic gadgets.

“I’m one of those people that carry around both an iPhone and a BlackBerry,” he says. “One is better to browse the Web and the other is better to use for e-mail and the Facebook application.”

The president of the only company that delivers video to cell phones in Canada shared his personal tech habits at the Canadian Wireless
Telecommunications Association’s conference on Wi-Max in Toronto.

Experts on both the hardware and software side agreed the format is well-suited to support a variety of different flavours of network – sort of like the Baskin Robbins of wireless network formats.

“An open Internet model is what our vision is,” says Ashish Sharma, vice-president of market development for Alvarion Ltd. “You won’t have one device that does it all. You’ll have different devices for different applications.”

The international company based in Tel Aviv, Israel has seven years of experience operating many different types of Wi-Max networks.

Sharma emphasized how the standard has grown over the years to become more flexible and support different modes of operation.

What was originally a fixed, outdoor network has now been deployed in a more nomadic and portable way and is progressing to a fully mobile capability.

“It’s the same network that can match all of your different business models,” he says. “What changes is how you change your network planning.”

Canada’s most talked about deployment of Wi-Max is the Inuksuk project that seeks to connect cottage country towns with wireless broadband service comparable to high-speed DSL.

The infrastructure project has produced strange bedfellows – as Bell Canada Enterprises and Rogers Communications Inc. have taken on the project as a 50/50 venture.

The project is being rolled in towns such as Orillia, Ont. 

Canadian consumers in those areas – if they have a PC – will likely be able to tap into the network easily.   

Many manufacturers have taken to integrating Wi-Max chips into their boxes, according to Alan Pritchard, vice-president of carrier networks in North America for Nortel Networks Inc.

“When you have this embedded connectivity in a device you’ll be able to use it to access open APIs [application programming interface] and SDKs [software development kit],” he says.  

“That’s the way it’s evolving , it’ll be consumers first, and connecting the underserved broadband market and then moving to the enterprise side.”

It’s falling chip prices that’s making Wi-Max so ubiquitous, QuickPlay’s Purboo says.  And this ubiquity, in turn, places new pressures on vendors.

With so many consumer based devices promising speedy mobile connections, it simply won’t be enough to produce a good piece of hardware anymore, he says.

“It’s not enough just to build a good device. You’ve got to build a compelling user interface and connect it to Internet services. 

Yet penetration rates for the technology remain low in North America. Wi-Max is forecast to see the most action in Asia-Pacific over the next few years, according to experts.

“It’s a very early market,” Purboo says. “There’s a very high price of participation right now for anyone who wants to do this.”
But that hasn’t stopped content providers from wanting to be on the scene when customers do adopt Wi-Max devices, he adds. 

He said QuickPlay’s OpenVideo “platform” has received attention from television broadcasters, who want an effective way to pipe their content out over mobile devices. 

Serving content up to users connected through many different devices and using networks to both consume and publish is where the money-making potential lies, Purboo says. 

Making belts with multiple device holsters might also prove to be profitable if his prediction comes to light.

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