There is an old saying that there are no second acts in American history. Perhaps. But it also is possible that there is a midpoint between total success and complete marginalization.
WiMax was the earlier of the two 4G candidates. Even as it was rolling out - mostly by Clearwire - experts were saying that it was the hare that eventually would lose to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) tortoise. It certainly seems to be working out that way: Verizon Wireless and AT&T have opted for LTE and even Clearwire is moving away from WiMax.
WiMax may be able to make lemonade out of the lemons it currently holds, however. Stacey Higginbotham at GigaOM suggests that there are at least a couple of potential lines of work for the technology. Declan Byrne, director of marketing at the WiMAX Forum, is talking up the prospects of WiMax landing in airports, pun intended. The 3.5 MHz band was just OK'd for ground communications at airports, which makes WiMax one of several candidates. Byrne, according to Higginbotham, says that smart energy also is a possibility - though she seems skeptical. Wrote Higginbotham, who surely intended her pun as well:
If the airline business doesn't take off, Byrne also plans on the smart grid offering a form of salvation for WiMAX, something I'm not so sure will come to pass. San Diego Gas and Electric is using WiMAX as a network for its smart grid, as are utilities in Australia and Canada, but utilities seem to be gravitating toward both wireless mesh technologies like those from Silver Spring Networks, and LTE instead of WiMAX.
The bottom line is that WiMax will never be the clean up hitter. But being a hitter eighth or ninth in the batting order isn't a bad thing, either. Members of the WiMax ecosystem, from chip makers to service providers, must be opportunistic. Success will depend on cobbling together a few moderate strains of business - wiring airports and smart grid are but two examples - to earn its place in service providers' and enterprises' tool chests. For those companies, the advent of machine-to-machine (M2M), demand for high-capacity networking - as described at Hot Hardware - and other advances mean there is no shortage of opportunity.