WiMAX is not a particularly revolutionary technology. Fixed wireless has been around for a while, and ironically, the lion’s share of the market is outside of North America.
With WiMAX, it’s not the technology itself, or the fact that vendors have agreed on a protocol, that will provide the most visible change. Rather, it’s the manner in which it will be implemented.
Executives at some vendors predict carriers will overlay their existing 2G and 3G networks with WiMAX (for more information, please see page 9). But what’s significant about WiMAX is you don’t have to be a carrier to get in the business of offering wireless access to users over a metropolitan area. By contrast, the range of WiFi is limited to about 100 metres and comparing WiFi to WiMAX is like comparing Apples to PCs.
Anyone with deep pockets could lease or buy real estate and install WiMAX base stations, with links to backbone networks, to offer Internet or private line access. Unlike the telecom carriers, electricity distribution utilities and cable TV firms, you don’t need to buy rights of way.
Unlike facilities-based carriers providing local service, you don’t have foreign ownership restrictions preventing cash-rich foreigners (whether it’s an American Fortune 500 company or a Saudi prince) from leasing space on buildings and then buying backbone service from a carrier.
What you do need is licensed spectrum, which is regulated by the federal government. The extent to which WiMAX is used depends largely on the manner in which the government sells the spectrum, and depending on who’s in power, there’s unlimited potential for poor decisions based on politics.
Do you think WiMAX will shake up the industry and give non-carriers an opportunity to compete head to head with the telcos? Share your opinion with us, at firstname.lastname@example.org