Mobile WiMax Goes on the Piste

The first commercial mobile WiMax network in the U.S. launches today -- but it isn't in Baltimore, Chicago, or Portland, Ore., where Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) are planning their initial 802.16e launches. (See CLWR: Where It's at With WiMax.)

It is, in fact, going live in the upscale mountain resort of Jackson Hole, Wyo., courtesy of DigitalBridge Communications Corp. (DBC).

That's right, now you can check your email while you ski and... WATCH OUT FOR THAT TREE!!! DBC has used several 802.16e mobile WiMax basestations from Israeli vendor Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) to unwire the getaway spot.

The operator's CEO, P. Kelley Dunne, tells Unstrung the service will cost customers around $40 a month, a price that includes the requisite WiMax PC card. Dunne says the service offers download speeds of 1 Mbit/s, with 250 kbit/s on the uplink.

The Ashburn, Va.-based operator, which began operations late in 2005, already has test customers on the mobile network, although Dunne won't specify how many. The CEO also notes that up to "3 million" visitors pass through Jackson Hole each year.

The company is no stranger to the WiMax game. In June 2007, DBC launched its first commercial fixed WiMax network in Rexburg, Idaho. Its business plan is to provide "broadband wireless to small and medium-sized communities of up to 150,000 people."

Dunne argues that DBC is not really a rival to Clearwire, even though both companies have been building out fixed wireless broadband alternatives to cable or DSL in small towns or cities for a while now.

That's because, unlike Clearwire, DBC intends to keep unwiring the small stuff and not get into larger markets. "We'll never go into a Tier 1," says Dunne.

Clearwire, meanwhile, is intending to launch its first mobile WiMax network in Portland, Ore., later this year. (See Can Clearwire Do It?)

Sprint will likely be the next operator to go commercial with mobile WiMax with a Baltimore launch planned for September. The two operators will then combine into the "new" Clearwire to deploy a national network in 2009. (See Sprint, Clearwire Create $14.5B WiMax Giant, Clearwire: We'll Kick LTE's Butt, and Sprint: More on B'More.)

For its part, DBC intends to upgrade the rest of its operations to 802.16e equipment over time. Dunne couldn't give any exact time scales or say which towns the operator might move to next.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

lrmobile_kumaramitabh 12/5/2012 | 3:37:36 PM
re: Mobile WiMax Goes on the Piste DigitalBridge USA, a company which had received $20 million in funding in Jan 2008 has taken the lead in announcing the launch of WiMAX services. It has commenced services initially in markets of Jackson,Wyo, Idhaho Falls and Appomatox,VA which will be expanded to other markets in the near future.
The initial service launch branded as GÇ£ BridgeMaxxGÇ¥ has been offered at $ 25 per month and can be used with WiMAX enabling add on cards or USB modems. The demonstrations of the initial roll out featured YouTube Videos in moving vehicles among other applications.
By being ahead of majors such as Sprint XOHM, it demonstrates that it is not necessary to have large capital outlays as a precursor to launch of these services as is usually made out to be. The technology is also not one which remains to be proven, as trials in over 300 locations have reinforced, nor is the availability of Customer devices such as modems such a major issue.

Incidentally this also reflects a similar trends seen in other countries, and makes WiMAX one of the technologies to get ahead of established companies whose infrastructure can not be matched by newcomers But the services can, as well demonstrated by the $25 per month broadband access offering launched this month.
One of the advantages touted by the CEO of DigitalBridge P.Kelly Dunne is the fact that such networks can be built to tailor to areas with unmet demand and networks built modularly.
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