WiMax: Last Mile Smiles
I first covered fixed wireless access as a reporter four or five years ago, and thought I knew the score: The sector was losing money, kudos, jobs, respect, talent, keys, coins, friends, and just about everything else. Why would anyone be interested in such a spectacular crash and burn?
So far as I can tell, only one fixed wireless vendor (Alvarion) is profitable, the deals are small (rarely more than one or two million dollars each), and the customers are dispersed across the farthest reaches of the globe.
So how does WiMax change all that? Well, it takes a little creative thought, so close your eyes, everybody, and relax, and imagine...
Self-install "wireless DSL" services... a competitive business-class wireless alternative to leased lines... backhaul for metro-zone 802.11 hotspots... a low-cost, high-speed, data overlay for 3G networks...
Pretty, ain't it?
Back in the real world, the standardization of what will be the basis of the WiMax radio and MAC components for broadband wireless equipment by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.'s 802.16 Task Group is already driving development of low-cost silicon by volume chipmakers to replace the expensive, proprietary designs in use today.
In fact, the more you think about WiMax as a common platform for many different broadband wireless applications, the more appealing it becomes. Gone are days when vendors will have to support half a dozen different platforms, and with the arrival of base-layer standards, they're instead free to focus R&D where it matters – on optimizing products for customer requirements.
And by keeping the equipment affordable, the market for broadband wireless access products could take off big time, according to this Insider report, WiMax: Going the Distance – which, in the end, I really did enjoy writing.
Interviewed for the report, Klaus-Dieter Kohrt, vice president for strategic product management at Siemens Mobile Networks, summed it up nicely: "WiMax is leaner and meaner, and customers expect a cost benefit."
"We're determined to maintain this leanness and not add too many things to the wish list. To build a cost-effective technology, you don't burden it with all of the carrier-grade features of UMTS, because you don't want to lose your price point."
— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider
WiMax: Going the Distance is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Unstrung Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.
Included in the report from the startup side are companies such as Aperto Networks, BeamReach Networks, Cambridge Broadband Ltd., Navini Networks Inc., NextNet Wireless Inc., and Redline Communications Inc.
Among the established fixed wireless vendors, names in the frame include Airspan Networks, Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR), Harris Corp. (NYSE: HRS), Proxim Corp. (Nasdaq: PROX), and SR Telecom Inc. (Toronto: SRX).
And on the major systems side, Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE) are leading the charge.