Let's get muni-WiFi and WiMAX players together

Let's get muni-WiFi and WiMAX players together
With all of the talk last week about Sprint's WiMAX plans that include an open access model and visions of WiMAX chips in a plethora of electronic devices ranging from laptops to digital cameras, little has been said about the potentially powerful synergy between WiMAX and muni-WiFi networks.

It seems there could be a win-win situation here. Muni-WiFi, to say the least, is going through a re-adjustment phase as cities shift from the mantra of bridging the digital divide to justifying these networks' existence based on solid business cases built around creating efficiency or saving money by wirelessly enabling functions such as meter reading and video surveillance. Technology-wise, WiFi has gotten a bad rap because it provides poor in-building coverage.

WiMAX players such as Sprint and Clearwire could use some anchor tenants to offer a solid revenue stream early on. And many devices will incorporate both WiFi and WiMAX chips.

This WiMAX/muni-WiFi synergy is exactly what Roberta Wiggins, research fellow with The Yankee Group, is touting. She says WiMAX service providers should view city government as valuable early adopters of WiMAX services because they can speed up the adoption among other local businesses and constituents as well as create a level of interest that will drive uptake of service. Municipalities also represent a strong revenue stream for WiMAX providers since such a network would offer efficiency improvements by serving as an overlay network to extend the reach of WiFi networks.

But we've seen very little movement in this area. Clearwire in December won a bid with Grand Rapids, Mich., to own and operate a WiMAX network that will include hybrid WiFi hotspot locations. Grand Rapids could easily serve as a model for WiFi/WiMAX integration, but Clearwire has yet to articulate its strategy there. --Lynnette

P.S.: In my Aug. 16 column titled, " NextWave spending heavily," I mentioned NextWave's strategy is still perplexing given the seemingly disparate assets it is putting together along with no announced customers. In fact, NextWave has a number of customers because of its many businesses that include PacketVideo, Go Networks and IPWireless. My intent was to say that the company putting a lot of effort into making its spectrum available to companies that want to enter the broadband space and use its products and technologies, such as WiMAX and TD-CDMA, but it has yet to announce any customers for that strategy.