WiMax and the Changing Face of Data Distribution

Carl Weinschenk

The second of a two-part story at Telephony Online focuses on a study, The WiMax Explosion! -- written by Alfred Boschulte and Victor Schnee. The writers, a former CEO of Nynex Mobile and the founder of Probe Research, respectively, think that WiMax could be a disruptive technology.


Perhaps the most compelling element of the story is the idea that WiMax can act as a direct link between content producers and owners of all stripes -- from Google and Yahoo to independent movie producers -- to end users, bypassing established cable and telephone company networks.


The analysts were impressively prescient. This week, Sprint Nextel said it will work with Google to provide customers with search, collaborative functions and social networking tools via WiMax. Details of the deal are well presented in this internetnews.com story. Google will provide Gmail, Google Talk and Google Calendar, while Sprint brings bandwidth, location detection and presence capabilities to the party.


The evolution of the Internet and powerful wireless delivery mechanisms mean that the neat and tidy means of distributing content is fading into a chaotic, but far more vibrant, landscape in which end users can pick and choose their content and have it delivered over a variety of ferociously competing platforms. WiMax, with its range and throughput, may be the right technology in the right place to benefit from this historical trend.


WiMax is not the only technology queuing up to take advantage in the technical evolution, which features increasingly high bandwidth and robust broadcast capabilities. This release, which promotes a study by Frost & Sullivan, also points to xMax and 3G Long Term Evolution (LTE) as non-wired platforms with significant promise.


The Telephony Online stories focus on Clearwire, a provider that will transition to WiMax. It currently has content agreements with direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers Echostar and DirecTV and an ambitious joint development deal with Sprint Nextel. WiMax, the analysts say, is "post convergence" because it doesn't require discrete wired and wireless networks to provide full services. The stories go into a good deal of detail, but the bottom line is that the establishment of low-cost, high-capacity networks will cause all sorts of problems for the incumbent carriers whose wireline platforms are inherently more expensive.


To succeed, of course, the entire WiMax ecosystem -- component makers, vendors, service providers and others -- must play their cards right. The feeling is that the Clearwater deal is evidence that the message is being accepted. Says Boschulte:

What we need to see from players is that WiMAX, as they always say, needs to be all it can be. Service providers need to offer this bundled package, with nationwide advertising and nationwide retail sales. It needs to be cost-effective rather very high cost.

This report on the U.S. market by the British firm Analysys, suggests that are several ways in which the future can unfold. The three scenarios are labeled "Low-Cost Data Pipes," "Emerging Markets Thrive" and "Cellular Goes Indoors." There are few details in the release, but the clear takeaway is that this is a tricky time to own an expensive network.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 1, 2007 7:10 PM peter gatzios peter gatzios  says:
This is also a political football between the relationships of the existing carriers and their device manufacturers (not to mention the regulatory bodies). This is evident by the number of dual band (cellular and WLAN) handsets the carriers are willing to certify for use on their networks. I think the current network operators will have atleast five years to manage any potential transition to non-cellular networks. Besides, the fundamental advantage that cellular provides is the transition of a call between switches (towers) at a high rate of speed (such as travelling in a car). Haven't seen anything from the competing technologies that currently manage this switched requirement. But I've been wrong many times before :) Reply

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