New Jersey's Star-Ledger has a solid piece exploring the potential of WiMax: It's nice to see a paper like the Star-Ledger get the story right. The piece offers a nice balance between describing why there is excitement around WiMax but also why the vision for it may not come to fruition. I wrote a story about WiMax which is scheduled to run Monday for the Seattle Times that also takes a close look at the pressures against WiMax as well as the hype around it.
The best chance for major WiMax success in the United States will be if Nextel decides to use it. While it could be used by a cable or DSL player, the chances of that are slim, but not for good reason. I spoke with the president and CEO of Wi-LAN, a company working on WiMax gear, who says cable and DSL providers would be ideal users for WiMax but he doesn't see it happening. "I think it's more a psychological barrier than anything else," he said. "They're very used to wires. They need to get used to wireless." Also, if one of the big landline players was interested in WiMax, they would most likely want to deliver it over licensed frequencies, which also becomes a barrier.
Otherwise, if no major player deploys WiMax in a big way, it may be used in pockets in rural areas. If they become very successful using it, WiMax could follow Wi-Fi's footsteps and bubble up in popularity from small or community users. Municipalities could also build WiMax networks. But the Star-Ledger article quotes Paul Kolodzy, head of the Wireless Network Security Center at the Stevens Institute of Technology and a former FCC advisor, who says that WiMax may not be secure enough for use by emergency groups.
In other WiMax news, I hope that this ZDNet story doesn't become a trend. The piece says that BT is already using WiMax in four rural locations. Unfortunately, that's impossible. WiMax is the term an industry trade group, the WiMax Forum, gave to its interpretation of the 802.16 standard. WiMax gear will be equipment that is certified by the WiMax Forum, just like Wi-Fi gear is certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. The WiMax Forum doesn't expect to begin certifying products until later this year. It will be unfortunate and confusing to the market if companies start saying that they're using WiMax gear. It will defeat the purpose of actually certifying gear.