There is no doubt that WiMAX technology is very exciting stuff with the prospect of being able to connect at any time from nearly anywhere (IEEE 802.16e, Mobile). The ‘mobile’ aspect of WiMAX is the big attraction, in my humble opinion. Evidence of this is the rapid growth of WiFi with hotspots cropping up everywhere and some municipalities offering connectivity for free. People want to stay connected. It’s that simple.
On the other hand, WiMAX may not be so popular at home, even if you are a subscriber to a WiMAX ISP. Cablecos (cable companies) have upped the data rates into the 5 Mbps to 10 Mbps range and new rollouts of xDSL will offer speeds ranging from 15 Mbps to 30 Mbps--then there is the rollout of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) where the sky is the limit.
What’s behind all of this is the competition between telcos and cablecos to deliver ‘it all’ using Internet Protocol (IP)--voice, music, data and video content (video on demand and IPTV).
In supporting roles we have the hopes of IEEE 802.11n to deliver video content to mobile devices within our homes and the HomePlug Powerline Alliance’s HomePlug AV standards-based technology that some vendors, such as Intellon, are starting to rollout. With PHY data rates more than 100 Mbps and up to 200 Mbps respectively, these technologies will provide whole-house media access and enjoyment.
The home is becoming an ultrabroadband place to be--ultrabroadband to and ultrabroadband throughout the home with content providers chomping at the bit.
WiMAX, on the other hand, is said to allocate only 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps to non-business subscribers, which brings up the issue of business model. WiMAX has the ability to deliver higher data rates if adequate RF bandwidth is available and the business model supports it. Bandwidth is a real problem in the United States, but not so much in most other countries with authorization to use the 3.5 GHz band.
In the United States, some large cellcos have commercial bandwidth available but I have not yet heard of any of them positioning it for broadband delivery of IPTV and other broadband services to the home. Cellcos seem to be honing their WiMAX business models for mobile markets where cellular, WiFi and WiMAX converge. It is in this arena that the greatest amount of revenue can be squeezed out of available wireless bandwidth.
Telcos and cablecos know they can package the Internet with IPTV suitable for widescreen viewing--yes, HDTV. They aren’t just trying to reach tech-heads either. It’s the affluent populations of the world they seek--big markets.
The pressure is enormous to keep WiMAX out in the cold, on the streets, in the parks and on public transit. So, don’t be confused about WiMAX’s place in the home. For the most part, it won’t be there--except for those who still enjoy free TV with outdoor antennas and use their WiMAX-enabled devices to surf the Web.
But, for mobile access, out in the cold, it will be hard to beat WiMAX. Just think, you can make your WiMAX connection while on the move and use your home SlingBox, via your broadband home network and DSL/cable/FTTH connection, to throw a compressed movie out to you on that long commute? Now that’s the WiMAX I’m talking about!