Trend: WiMax landscape comes into view

To paraphrase Henry Kissinger: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Similarly, a press release announcing a recent In-Stat study on the future of WiMax says that just because WiMax has been at the center of a lot of attention lately does not mean that it is all hype and no substance. Exactly.

To say that there have been exaggerations on both sides of the WiMax debate is true, but only as true as saying that both a jaywalker and Al Capone are law breakers. In my view, and this will not be a surprise to our readers, critics of WiMax are far more guilty of a sustained campaign aiming to dismiss or belittle the technology's promise and potential. The critics' ardor has begun to cool of late in the face of the steady, inexorable march forward of both the fixed and mobile version of the technology and its implementation in more and more places around the world. For a while during 2004 and 2005, you couldn't run into the noun "WiMax" without the adjective "over hyped" attached to it. With the notable exception of a few serious analysts--In-Stat's David Chamberlain is one, and there are others--many of the critics either engaged in not much more than self-serving propaganda (did somebody say QUALCOMM?) or were part of a comfortable and self-satisfied fraternity basing arguments on mere assertion and endlessly quoting each other as if this constituted proof of anything.

The recent In-Stat release justifiably points out that it is wrong to say that WiMax will fail because, say, MMDS did, and that it is equally wrong to say that because cell phone companies will show no interest in WiMax, no one will back the technology. The fact that ISDN failed to gain much traction in the past, for example, has little to do with the likelihood of success of DSL. And there are quite a few service providers--AT&T, Covad, SpeakEasy, British Telecom and Deutsche Telekom come to mind--which have joined the WiMAX Forum and support the technology. The WiMAX Forum, by the way, already has nearly 200 members.

The study is based on a presentation by In-Stat's Eric Mantion made at the NTCA's 2005 IOC Wireless Symposium. In sum: The technology has the opportunity not only to be a potentially cheaper way of providing broadband in the U.S., but it may also be used as a means to provide backhaul for cellular BTSs and, at some point in the not too distant future, also provide an alternative to the high cost of using a mobile phone. The technology also faces questions it has yet compellingly to answer and unknowns it will have to address.

The report examines three scenarios for how WiMax will be used in the U.S. and provides a detailed forecast for each of the scenarios:

1. Local WISPs adopt WiMax so as to be more cost effective
2. National companies roll out combined WiMax/VoIP services
3. National companies offer combined WiMax/VoIP/Satellite TV services

The report points to No. 2 as the more likely scenario.

For more about the In-Stat study:
- see In-Stat's Eric Mantion's Techworld summary

PLUS: This may not be the best time to do scientific work in South Korea, but still: SK Telecom and Montreal-based Wavesat will be working on WiFi and WiBro/OFDMA system tools and a development kit which will soon bring full wireless broadband service to motor vehicles. "The resulting WiBro products will accelerate the delivery of WiMax full mobility infrastructure, in South Korea and worldwide," said Wavesat CEO Michel Guay. Story | Report

ALSO: "India is quickly emerging as a major market for WiMax," says Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and a respected high-tech VC. "With a population of more than 1 billion and a growing economy, India is a huge market for broadband and needs rapid deployment of such services, which in turn will further accelerate GDP growth." Release

FINALLY: WiMax-based products impressed attendees of the CES show in Las Vegas. We were impressed with Samsung's WiBro-equipped notebooks and smart phones. Story

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