WiMax: The Real Deal
That's the conclusion of Mobile WiMax: Who's Doing What, the latest report from Unstrung Enterprise Insider, which looks at vendor and service provider timetables for the powerful new networking technology. The report also examines the top issues that IT pros must consider in developing a strategy not just for WiMax but for mobile broadband in general.
"Unlike other overhyped broadband wireless technologies, mobile WiMax is unlikely to languish as a niche play," writes report author Tim Kridel, "if only because more than 400 IT and telecom vendors have a good deal of money and reputation riding on this technology. As a result, mobile WiMax eventually will be an option that most enterprises will have to at least consider."
Add in the utility promised by mobile WiMax, which is based on the 802.16e standard ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) last year, as well as the cost factor, and the new technology could eventually fulfill many of the claims being made for it by vendors and the technology press. "Enterprises should keep an eye on mobile WiMax," Kridel asserts, "because it could mature into a low-cost alternative to 3G, WiFi, and wired broadband technologies such as digital subscriber line (DSL)."
Kridel, however, punctures some of the more exaggerated claims being made for the new wireless broadband technology. At average download speeds of 2- to 4-Mbit/s, mobile WiMax will be faster than 3G but slower than WiFi.
What's more, domestic and international roaming will be a thorny issue for early WiMax deployments, particularly before coverage nears ubiquity. "Considering how much vendors and service providers already have on their plate, roaming probably won't be possible, let alone widespread, until 2008 at the earliest," says Kridel -- which is a problem, since 802.16e is, after all the "mobile" version of WiMax.
The commitment of major cellular providers like Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), however, could help speed up the path to roaming as they leverage both their technology and their business relationships. In August, Sprint said it would spend $3 billion in the next two years to build a WiMax network that will serve 100 million customers. (See Sprint Goes WiMax.)
In fact, Kridel points out, WiMax will be neither the "3G killer" nor the successor to WiFi that many have seen it, and touted it, as. Rather, it will be a powerful, possibly low-cost, technology in an array of wireless broadband systems that IT managers will be able to choose from in coming years.
The bottom line for IT pros: "Once it has matured, mobile WiMax will be a viable option for a wide variety of enterprise applications in a wide variety of verticals."
— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung