Mobile high-speed networks fight for laptops, extend lead over WiMax

In 2005 we saw some competitive strikes against WiFi-integrated laptops with announcements from laptop makers that they would sell computers that feature built-in support for EV-DO and WCDMA/HSDPA networks. Verizon, which blew off any alliances with WiFi, announced Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard would sell laptops in 2006 that support EV-DO, while Dell announced it would also support Cingular's HSDPA network. I'm hearing that EV-DO is catching on with executives and road warriors. As operators continue to lower their pricing for data access, we will see 3G begin to usurp WiFi data consumption.

Why? The simple answer is mobility. Of course, free WiFi will continue to win out, but customers would rather pay to have mobility than pay to be confined to a coffee shop. Still, we will continue to see Sprint Nextel and, of course, T-Mobile offering bundled data services, letting subscribers access both cellular networks through one package in order to offer customers the best of both worlds.

WiMax will make its debut in the fixed wireless world but will fail to make a significant impact on the wireless market as a whole since vendors aren't expected to introduce any significant volume of mobile WiMax equipment until later this year or early 2007. Even then, initial solutions will likely be limited to portable usage models. If Sprint Nextel decides this year to adopt WiMax in its vast 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings, the hype cycle will definitely turn in the technology's favor.