Thursday, October 09, 2008

WiMax: A little too late?

Sprint officially launched its WiMax high-speed wireless service on October 8th, and now the notebooks with built-in WiMax are streaming out from Acer and Toshiba. WiMax is significantly faster than 3G networks, but for now, it's only available in Baltimore, and Sprint plans to roll it out in seven more cities in the next six months. The problem is that Sprint is bleeding money, and even though Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks have committed to invest $3.2 billion in the business to be created by the merger of Sprint's XOHM WiMax business with Clearwire, those companies may not go through with their investments given the state of the U.S. economy.

WiMax, with real-world download speeds of 2 to 4Mb/second, is only an appetizer on the way to true 4G service, which will provide speeds upwards of 100Mb/second. Those 4G services will probably not start rolling out until 2012 at the earliest. However, if the current recession delays widespread deployment of WiMax to 2010 or later, WiMax may prove to be only a transitional technology, much as Sprint's earlier wireless broadband service couldn't survive once cable and telephone companies built out their networks.

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