Lots of WiMAX news this week, as WiMAX World 2008 completes its three-day conference and exhibition at McCormick Place, Chicago, today (Thurs., Oct 2.)
This is a technology we’ve been tracking, in part because of the more than $1 billion that Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House and have pledged to invest into Clearwire. (See "WiMAX on Deck.")
But others are engaged, too, and we’ll point you to a few reports that cut through some of this week’s frothy news. Young market, news The presence of the term "ecosystem" in press releases – as seen in WiMAX-related news this week – is usually a telltale sign of a young market, where activity among and between technology suppliers outweighs demand-driven deals and deployments.
One "ecosystem"-related white paper, however, is worth noting: a 22-page summary of the WiMAX Forum’s certification program available for download on the Forum’s Web site.
The momentum behind the certification regime looks significant. What lies behind it, explains the paper, are "extensive collaborations with standards-setting organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), testing labs and … 530 WiMAX Forum member companies."
Back in the actual market, however, is the chicken-and-egg predicament that bedevils this incipient market.
"So far," writes CNET’s Marguerite Reardon, in an article denounced by some online commentators as fomenting fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), "devices with WiMAX have been few and far between."
Focusing on the launch of Sprint’s Xohm service in Baltimore, Reardon points to two additional challenges: a lack of actual demand, reminiscent of Earthlink’s failed citywide Wi-Fi initiatives, and a currently enfeebled credit market that may hesitate to cough up the $2 billion that Sprint/Clearwire may need to finish building its network in 2009.
Curiously enough, ABI Principal Analyst Philip Solis writes "Mortgage Troubles Could Help Out Clearwire," in a blog posting under that title. Business and rural markets As any mobile worker who has ever driven around looking for a Starbucks more for connectivity than caffeine or downloaded instructions on how to tether a blackberry to a laptop can attest, demand for ubiquitous wireless broadband exists.
But that’s a niche. It may take a place such as India to bring this market to scale. Network World’s Brad Reed reports that WiMAX Forum President Ron Resnick told WiMAX World attendees that India – with a population of more than 1 billion – has only 4 million subscribers for broadband services.
Of course, it’s a subset of the Indian population that needs and can afford broadband. But the Indian middle class is rising, as is the supply of available WiMAX. Resnick reportedly added that BSNL, India’s state-run telecom provider, already has deployed WiMAX across 10 cities in India and that Tata Communications is investing $1 billion – as much as the U.S. cable consortium – in coverage for 15 major cities.
For more on WiMAX and the Asian subcontinent, wait another two weeks. The India WiMAX Expo and Conference is slated for Oct. 15-16 at the Hotel Oberoi in New Dehli.
– Jonathan Tombes
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