This Week in WiMax
Looking beyond Mondi
When some pricing problems surfaced this week with Samsung's Mondi mobile Internet device for the Clearwire networks, it got me to thinking: What would be the perfect new device to really show off the power of WiMax networks? The gizmo I am thinking of would combine the best attributes of the Mondi, the WiFi/WiMax Clear Spot router, and maybe some 3G connectivity as well. For software there would need to be an iPhone or Android-quality browser, and either Skype or MagicJack for cheap VoIP calls. I would call it the Bandwidth Backhaul Buddy (3B, patent and trademark pending) and it would go a long way to solving a lot of business or personal connectivity needs.
As it is now, the Mondi looks as if it gets you most of the way there to do tasks perhaps too complex for just a smartphone; but having the ability to use the Mondi's WiMax connection as a mobile hotspot would help justifiy its somewhat inflated price. Because when it comes to work -- real work -- tasks are more easily accomplished on a full-size keyboard, or at least a netbook's approximation. The Bandwidth Backhaul Buddy would then cease being just a mobile device and become the portable, personal hotspot, for either just one device or a workgroup full of WiFi devices.
The Skype and/or MagicJack is there to eliminate the need to carry around a dedicated voice phone -- and to help cut down the costs by eliminating the need to subsidize the carrier voice networks. Is such a device even possible? Don Bush, director of marketing at Cradlepoint, thinks building one now would be expensive and that there might be antenna issues between the competing connectivity options. But what are challenges if not something to overcome? C'mon Google guys, here's something to work on to help monetize your company's WiMax investment. Beats sitting around waiting for Apple to put WiMax into the iPhone, doesn't it?
Sprint already cutting WiMax prices
Lost perhaps in the shuffle of so-called leaked launch dates and the official announcement of more live 4G services from Sprint was the carrier's decision to cut prices on its hybrid 3G/4G equipment and services -- for at least a couple months, the modem is free (after mail-in rebates), and the monthly service is now down to $70, a savings of about $90 from the original pricing of $80 for the card and $80 a month for the service.
At $70 a month for the plan and free for the card, Sprint is essentially throwing in the WiMax connectivity for $10 more than you would pay for a 3G-only data plan from either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. That is the kind of pricing WiMax is going to need to attract attention in a world of increasing mobile-data options. But I think it still needs to go lower to really turn heads. I see $70 a month, do I hear $50? $40? A couple more quarters of 12,000 subscriber adds may help us see how low WiMax can go.
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— Paul Kapustka is the founder and editor of Sidecut Reports, a WiMax analysis site and research service. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to Unstrung.