WiMAX — Is it ready yet?

For the US market, the two service providers that are getting ready to deploy WiMAX networks are Sprint and Clearwire. Tuesday at CES XOHM, Intel, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung all stood together to talk to press and analysts about bringing WiMAX to the market. Sprint gave an update on their deployment plans. It was an exciting discussion not because they were talking WiMAX but because its clear that WiMAX is so close to reality. These companies are talking about something that will be available to millions of people in 2008 – unlike many of the things that we see or hear about at CES, WiMAX is coming really really soon.

It was excellent to see everyone’s excitement about WiMAX – especially Barry’s as he talked about additional benefits of WiMAX you might not have thought about: Interior Decorating. It seems Barry’s house (like mine) is full of Ethernet (presumed) cables going everywhere connecting devices around his house and if you’re like Barry’s wife you want the cables gone, which Barry has promised as soon as he WIMAXs the house. Maybe HGTV will have a segment on “1 easy way to improve your home décor: WiMAX”. Intel’s own Sriram Viswanathan was there talking about how he excited he is about WIMAX and the growth internationally – everyone agreed this is more than a US technology – watch out world, here comes WiMAX!

I had to reflect on this moment as a historical one – will we remember sitting here at CES in this room watching all of these guys talk not as the future, but almost as the kickoff of the “year of first mobile deployments”. That thought took me down memory lane, back to 2003 when Intel put our weight behind the technology. Barry West, the CEO of the XOHM business unit for Sprint was gracious and praised Sean Maloney for pushing WiMAX. I remember how excited we all were thinking about the possibilities back then. Hotspots were just beginning. I would walk into Starbucks and ask people with notebooks if they were using the Wi-Fi network and they would look at me confused – no idea what I was talking about. That was only 4 ½ years ago. Hurry up WiMAX!

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