• July 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Whither WiMAX?

The advent of wireless communications via phone and Internet changed the way we do business. Cell phones, PDAs, notebooks, and other wireless devices accompany business travelers and field agents wherever they roam, and so do problems with limited service areas. That may soon be resolved by the pending arrival of WiMAX. WiMAX is an industry coalition advancing IEEE 802.16 broadband wireless access standards, and like WiFi before it, the coalition has lent its name to the technology. It is claimed WiMAX networks will provide voice and high-speed data access over several miles, extending last-mile connectivity (from the local carrier to the subscriber) to cities, suburbs, and rural areas alike. WiFi permits data rates of 11 megabits per second (Mbps) over distances of up to a few hundred feet; WiMAX extends the broadcast range of a single source to six miles or more under optimal conditions. Early rollout of WiMAX will be fixed locations, with point-to-point communications similar to DSL, but without the wires. The technology is expected to be available for mobile clients by early 2007, as 802.16E-enabled devices reach market. According to Amy Martin, WiMAX spokeswoman for Intel, several vendors already are testing the technology and shaping the industry. "At present, AT&T is ahead of the game with trials of fixed WiMAX, while Sprint is focusing on mobile access," Martin says. Speakeasy, a smaller provider, installed a broadcast antenna atop the Space Needle in Seattle last November for its beta test of WiMAX. Bruce Chatterly, president and CEO of Speakeasy, says his company is able to cover the entire downtown core of Seattle, about five miles square, with that one antenna. "We're offering customers twice the bandwidth of a T1 line for $800 a month, while a pair of T1s would cost nearly $1,100," Chatterly says. According to Chatterly, a T1 installation can take 18 to 21 days, but WiMAX can be ready to go within 48 hours.
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