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Suspend Your Disbelief

When I filed my story about the citywide wireless network in Lenexa, Kansas, yesterday, my editor came back to me immediately and incredulously. (See KC Green Lights Wireless.)

"You mean 1.2 to 1.8 Mbit/s for the backbone, not to the vehicles, right?" he asked, referring to the 900MHz mobile broadband network that Lenexa has begun deploying to city vehicles.

I assured him I'd asked the same question, twice. Then I re-checked, again. Nope, came the answer from Michael Lawrence, Lenexa's very knowledgeable CTO, it really is that fast out to the tablet PCs in vehicles. And it's actually rated up to 3 Mbit/s.

Our dubious responses represent more than the professional skepticism of journalists, I think. It's a natural tendency, at this point in technology history, to doubt the claims of superfast wireless network providers (in this case Alvarion Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR)), particularly as relating to WiMax or the sort of "pre-WiMax" gear that Lenexa is using. We've simply heard such claims before – and meanwhile some of us are still trying to get true broadband speeds to our homes via DSL or satellite links, which are notoriously underperforming (a fact to which I can personally attest).

But wireless broadband is actually happening, and local governments like Lenexa, along with big universities, are the early adopters. This summer's auction of licenses in the 1700, 2100, and 700MHz frequency bands will hasten deployments of these "true high-speed" wireless networks, and IT managers who have grown skeptical of such promises would be well-advised to keep abreast of them. Just today, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) introduced a new base station that it says will enable easy deployment of 3G and broadband wireless networks and will lower the cost for base stations by up to 70 percent.

That's an extravagant claim. But I'm learning to temper my reflexive skepticism about such wireless networking boasts. Some of them are starting to come true before our eyes. And to dismiss them is to miss a big part of what's coming down the pike for enterprise wireless networks.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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