Friday, August 10, 2007

Will Verizon Wireless go WiMAX?


Will Verizon Wireless someday adopt WiMAX as its fourth generation access platform? And if it does, will WiMAX swiftly become just one more access technology wireless incumbents use to reach customers? If so, will WiMAX really be disruptive?

So here's the logic. Vodafone has at least for the moment chosen to keep its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. And though it hasn't been a WiMAX backer heretofore, Vodafone has become a principal member of the WiMax Forum, and has been conducting trials in Malta, France and Bahrain for some time now.

This might just be a hedge, as Vodafone also supports the cellular-based standard for very high speed data networks LTE (Long Term Evolution), as well as WiFi Mesh. But it's a fast-moving world, and Vodafone at the very least wants to react swiftly in case WiMAX takes off as a primary tier one provider access platform.

In the U.S. market, two code division multiple access (CDMA) networks are Sprint and Verizon Wireless. The Sprint Clearwire alliance ups the ante. And Vodafone obviously knows things we do not. But there is some chance WiMAX becomes a major incumbent access platform. And that would clearly blunt its use as a competitive and alternate pipe.

Still, it is fair to argue that WiMAX, even in the hands of incumbents, will spur some "goodness". Sprint WiMax will launch first in Chicago and Washington, D.C. in early 2008, offering 2 Mbps to 4 Mbps service for an estimated $55, company executives have suggested. That would blow the doors off at&t or Verizon 3G offerings, I have to tell you.

Sprint also will be mulling a more open approach to use of that bandwidth than we have been accustomed to seeing on wireless networks. So maybe more competitive and open goodness will flow from WiMAX, even if it winds up being a major incumbent access platform.

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