WiMAX’s Backers Bet Big, Dream Bigger

With a promised transmission speed more than five times faster than current
wireless networks, WiMAX’s promises are legion: the ability to send huge data
files from a smartphone, switch from a mobile phone network to a LAN without
redialing, share documents in real-time video conferences and essentially
transport all the benefits of an office’s networked PC to conduct business on
the road.

Who could pass on such connectivity nirvana? No one, assuming a growing pool
of deep-pocketed technology players is right on the money.

It’s the vision Sprint (NYSE: S) and Clearwire (NASDAQ: CLWR) pushed
forward
earlier this month when the two companies announced a staggering
$14.5 billion WiMAX joint venture.

“This is truly about data, where today, it’s all about voice,” Leigh Horner,
Sprint spokesperson, told InternetNews.com. “It’s about taking the
desktop PC to work outside the office.”

The Clearwire WiMAX network, which aims to service up to 140 million
U.S. users by 2010, has the support of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), Comcast (NASDAQ:
CMSCA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Bright House
Networks, a cable provider. The partners are pledging $3.2 billion to finance
the quest, as well as offering services and technology to support the
effort.

Sprint Nextel this week also announced that its WiMAX technology had met its
internal standards and will launch commercially later this year — ideally
signifying that despite some early hurdles, WiMAX is on its way.

Diverging paths

But Sprint isn’t alone in its love for high-speed broadband. AT&T (NYSE: T)
and Verizon Wireless are aiming to cash in on mobile broadband but by using a
different technology, dubbed Long-Term Evolution (LTE).

LTE is a developing, advanced wireless mobile radio technology based on
existing technologies like the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) and
Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), GSM’s 3G mobile phone
standard. LTE also has the blessing of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project
(3GPP), the industry body overseeing GSM and UMTS.

While LTE development is ongoing, its backers, which also include Nokia, see
it as an upgrade path for existing investment in 3G phone networks, while
providing similar throughput capabilities as WiMAX.

No matter which technology wins in the race to the finish line, at least
three things are absolute: Enterprises have tons of time to plan for the network
revolution, fierce competition will spur advanced features and better security
and there’ll be an onslaught of services and software advancing mobile
productivity.

Sprint’s news is “a significant step that will push much more effort into
mobilizing applications and increasing use of Internet services,” Phillip
Marshall, senior vice president of technology for the Yankee Group, told
InternetNews.com.

“This will bring social networking, personalization and localization to
mobile computing,” Marshall said, adding that mobile devices could eventually
become point-of-sale devices and be used as credit cards are today. “It’s a
change agent for these types of services … a window of opportunity to
capitalize on user capabilities.”

Examples of the technology’s anticipated uses abound: Users could conduct
live video conferences from remote locations and download business presentations
over distances of up to 30 miles using a WiMAX-enabled laptop or media
device.

“This will bring visual computing into play,” Julie Coppernoll, Intel’s
director of WiMAX marketing, told InternetNews.com. “It’s dependable,
ubiquitous broadband that we don’t have today.”

Article courtesy of
InternetNews.com

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