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Ars Technica has a brief but excellent comparison of mobile Wimax and Wi-Fi for citywide deployment: Wi-Fi has problems of interference, signal reach, and bandwidth; mobile WiMax should deliver through coordinated use of licensed spectrum quite high download rates with low latency and high quality. Interference isn’t entirely eliminated, but it’s within the control of the operator, not a situation for contention (joke intended) among unrelated parties.
The lack of WiMax adapters should be troubling, given that Sprint won’t subsidize the hardware, but Intel’s chief said a $30 price point is the goal, as well as $30 per month service.
What Ars doesn’t note is that WiMax costs a lot more to build out than Wi-Fi. Add in the friction of getting all users to purchase cards or dongles until the Intel machine is geared up to include as a standard laptop feature, and that slows things down a bit.
Further, Wi-Fi doesn’t require coordination with other parties to use the spectrum; you can certainly collide, however, on issues of interference and overuse of spectrum. It’s neat that Sprint and Clearwire have committed so much money to building their network out nationwide, but anyone can set up a Wi-Fi network wherever and to whatever extent they want. So where Ars paints WiMax as a clear and potentially successful alternative to Wi-Fi, the news site omits the monopoly situation. There will likely be a single WiMax entity, the shared network that Sprint and Clearwire will build.
They’ll be in competition against wireline services, sure, but a city can’t build a WiMax network, nor can most small providers. (There are some licenses held in small markets that could work for that, but they’re pretty thin now.)
Posted by Glennf at September 27, 2007 4:09 PM