WiMax's bright future and five hurdles to overcome

Doubters question pricing, usage model

2.What's so special about WiMax?

Assuming a user can find a device with WiMax service that's not too expensive, the second concern is what will WiMax provide? In other words, is there a killer application or usage model that only a WiMax wireless network can support that you can't get with another wireless broadband service?

"The biggest concern with WiMax for me is how it fits into the pantheon of wireless solutions, since wireless in the wide-area network competes with cellular," said Craig Mathias, an analyst at Farpoint Group and a Computerworld columnist. "I mean, what do you do with it?"

To answer the question of the killer app with WiMax, Intel provided a partial answer at WiMax World, where the chip maker demonstrated a gaming device running with WiMax speeds versus DSL to show how WiMax provided smooth full-motion gaming video simulations compared with jerky video motion while running at a slower bandwidth.

Beyond gaming and into the business user's realm, West said one business application would be to use WiMax for showing videos of homes for sale, giving customers quick access to the features of a kitchen or floor plan supported by video sent wirelessly to nearly any device.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to WiMax is mobility, Ayvazian said. WiMax will mean, for instance, that video a home-based broadband user watches from a PC today can also be viewed in a car or on a walk outside the house. Currently, some versions of mobile TV run fairly smoothly at slower data rates than WiMax, "but the downloads take forever," he noted.

Also, anyone surfing the Web with a cellular network can get impatient, as the experience using Apple's iPhone over the AT&T EDGE network has shown, Ayvazian noted. When the iPhone runs on Wi-Fi, he said, "it shows what iPhone could be if it ran on WiMax."

And there is interest. Ayvazian said he recently met with officials from the NBA who are "preoccupied" with being able to deliver video content of games to "every kind of mobile device possible."

In another example, Scott Wickware, vice president of carrier networks at Nortel Networks, said Nortel demonstrated in May the value of WiMax for enabling emergency personnel to gain quick access to medical records and to transmit video of a patient from a moving ambulance to doctors in a hospital.

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