WiMax — long distance WiFi
“If you find it difficult to get excited by the details of a new wireless-data protocol, you are not alone. So what explains the current buzz in the telecoms and computer industries surrounding WiMax, a high-speed, long-range wireless standard? This week investors pumped $20m into Aperto Networks of Milpitas, California, one of several firms planning to launch WiMax products this year. Heavyweights such as Intel, Nokia and AT&T are lining up behind the standard. Sean Maloney, the head of Intel’s telecoms division, says it will put ‘the next 5 billion users’ on the internet. But whereas WiMax has promise, says John Yunker, an analyst at Pyramid Research, it is currently surrounded by much confusion and ‘a ton of hype’.
Indeed, all this is strongly reminiscent of the fuss over Wi-Fi, a popular technology that uses a small base-station plugged into a high-speed (broadband) connection to link laptops within 50 metres or so to the internet. Wi-Fi is undoubtedly useful — in 9% of American households, for example — but it is used mainly to provide wireless internet coverage inside homes, offices and schools. Few people seem to be prepared to pay for fee-based Wi-Fi access in ‘hotspots’ in airports and railway stations, and schemes to cover whole cities with Wi-Fi and make expensive third-generation (3G) mobile-phone networks redundant have got nowhere. But whereas Wi-Fi provides coverage within a small hotspot, WiMax, which has a maximum range of 30 miles, could provide blanket coverage. It could, as a result, prove to be a far more useful, and disruptive, technology…”
Hmmm…. I like disruptive technologies and Maloney’s ‘next 5 billion’ concept. But where exactly are these folks going to find the cash to pay for the requisite 802.16-enabled laptops, I wonder?