The Wall Street Journal exhaustively surveys the lay of the land for broadband wireless deployment: I estimate that this article took a few dozen hours and weeks of reporting--some of which surely found its way into other articles--to pull together because of the number of companies and technologies involved. It's a great overview that focuses on WiMax, metro Wi-Fi, and other broadband wireless as an alternative to the wirebase that's needed by cell companies and service providers who don't own copper.
I particularly like the neat turn of phrase that encapsulates the entire WiMax branding and hype problem: One of the technologies drawing the most attention is WiMAX, which is similar to the popular Wi-Fi standard that millions of people have used to set up wireless networks in their homes but is slated to have a range of several miles. Since WiMAX has yet to be certified, companies are using precursors to the technology.
Exactly. Precursors aren't necessarily worse, but they're not interoperable and they don't bring the benefits of mass-market standardization to reduce the CPE (customer premises equipment) that will ultimately make broadband wireless affordable to the average home instead of a subset.
I love this bit of specious reasoning quoted about the landline side of things that are causing this competitive wireless marketplace to emerge. The Bells argue that they shouldn't be forced to share their lines. "We're incurring all of the costs of building these networks and we don't feel we have to share them with our competitors below what it costs us to build and maintain our network," says BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher.
I don't think anyone has ever asked the Bells to subsidize the cost, but rather to provide an accounting that shows the true costs. It's clear that because the Bells can bundle services and make money across an entire customer package that they have every motivation to make their wire costs much higher to discourage having to resell access at a price that allows competition. In other words, if the Bell companies can arrange a markup over costs, why can't they resell at wholesale with a margin for competitors? They can, but they want it to appear as though they can't to preserve their bundling profits.
Also, I guess nobody every explained to Mr. Battcher that monopolies, natural or regulated, are subject to different rules than companies competing without any advantage. The Bells own the wire; they should be forced to share unless you believe that consumers should pay the maximum possible price rather than the optimal price decided on by a marketplace. Those focused on business returns and shareholder value would argue the highest price the market will bear is best; those focused on consumer issues might maintain that more competition would produce an ideal price set by the contention of service in the bazaar.
But broadband wireless coupled with pressure from cable operators has at least forced a semblance of competition with much, much more on the way.
What's most important about the survey of the landscape in this article is that it shows how widespread the tests are already by major firms and how many tens of billions will be poured into all forms of broadband wireless in the very near future.