And I mean tackles! Pins it to the mat: This article lays out the land in a way that I appreciate: WiMax is an incremental enabling technology not a radical shift in view. No WiMax equipment has been sold yet. None will be sold for at least six months. When it does--and pre-WiMax turns into true WiMax--customer premises equipment will still be pretty steep compared to commodity devices available today.
I had a long talk with SkyPilot the other day, which uses 802.11a-like technology to offer fairly good broadband speeds across long distances. Their tech is totally commoditized. Their CPE cost is $349--for a single unit. It goes down quite a lot (they wouldn't say how much) in quantity. They're about to announce some big customers for their production gear.
WiMax isn't about whether broadband wireless is a viable service to offer. It certainly is. There's no question about that. It's whether a particular instanciation of that technology has any bearing on the deployment unless is has particular advantages that make something possible that wasn't. (That's part of the issue with early MIMO gear for the home, too.)
As I read this Economist article, the real issue isn't whether a company like Qwest would choose SkyPilot's 802.11 over Alvarion's pre- or post-certified WiMax. Rather it's whether "plenty good enough today for real deployment" trumps "much better but much more expensive in the future until we deploy a lot of it."
WiMax has a huge array of benefits for carriers that want to roll out WiMax in the same way they deployed DSL: few truckrolls (because of good non line of sight protocols) and lots of ratcheting in bandwidth offered to provide discrete services that mimic DSL and cable modems. These benefits are more appealing to carriers that are trying to integrate broadband wireless into an existing portfolio. These carriers are also in a better position to bundle applications on top of WiMax thus making it more reasonable for them to eat or subsidize a $500 CPE cost than even a large regional ISP or municipality.
WiMax might be the flavor that telcos and related firms opt for because of consistency, standardization, and technical features. But it doesn't mean that potentially billions of dollars of other gear might not be sold in the meantime that has a very similar function and utility for the non-operator market.
The article also walks through mobile WiMax, which hasn't been finalized yet and is possibly due in late 2006. The Economist points out Intel's previous failures to deliver on anything like a timetable, so 2007 might be optimistic, still.
I admit that I like the idea of mobile WiMax, but I have a hard time believing that it will seem like a good idea when it's actually ready to be deployed. With the increase in speed and sophisticated of systems based on or parallel to Wi-Fi and 3G cellular, it's just hard to see mobile WiMax's place in that ecosystem by the time 2007 rolls around. [link via TechDirt]