Test driving Wimax taxis

I’ve been to a number of Wimax conferences in the past few years, but this year’s Wimax Forum Asia show in Taipei marks the first time I could walk out of the conference hall and see a demo of Wimax in action.
As Telecom Asia reported last month, Vmax has launched a Wimax service in the capital, offering connectivity to 1,000 taxis.
I managed to catch one of them. The Wimax set-up featured a GPS-enabled touchscreen MID mounted on the back of the front passenger seat. Among other things, I could access a real-time navigation app that also displayed our driving speed, and – of course – streaming music videos.
The video was the real test, and it was YouTube quality – which is to say, acceptable – for the entire 15-minute trip.
If Vmax chief Teddy Huang is right about the service yielding “much more” than NT$500-NT$600 in ARPU per user, it’s not a bad testament to Wimax’s potential to carve out these kind of B2B niche services.
Or to allow users to come up with their own solutions. Another taxi I rode in had a mounted laptop next to the driver that was running GoogleMaps whilst playing a live local TV channel with good video quality. WiMax Taxi
Thanks to my poor excuse for Mandarin, I wasn’t able to find out from the driver whether it was running on a Wimax or HSPA link (there was no dongle, but embedded laptops for both technologies are available in Taiwan).
But in a way, that in itself is an instructive point: users don’t care what technology your network runs so long as it works.
It’s these kind of apps that will make the mobile broadband wars interesting – not just in terms of operators thinking up new types of things to connect and services to build around them, but also users rigging up their own solutions.