Tip of the Month for September 2005

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TIP: WiMAX Launch Expected To Spur Innovation And New Products
If you have been waiting with bated breath for the long-anticipated launch of broadband access for users in remote locations or urban "dead" spots, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it is for yourself, or to facilitate your ability to reach friends, business associates or family members who currently can’t get broadband Internet service, WiMAX (or Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is finally beginning its long-anticipated launch in the U.S.

BellSouth is planning to launch this new technology in Athens, Georgia, with cities in Florida to follow later this year. Qwest is also planning to test market WiMAX near Denver in the last quarter of 2005. BellSouth dubs its new service "pre-WiMAX" because the technology is not officially certified yet. Fully "blessed" or not, WiMAX is the "last mile solution," allowing providers to reach customers who have been unable to get broadband service from their local cable or telephone company. Industry observers believe it will also be the catalyst for the creation of many new business models, with the power to create game-changing shifts in many industries.

There has been demand worldwide for broadband wireless Internet access for some time. In the U. S., it is very expensive for providers to use traditional technology to reach customers in densely populated, major metro centers that lack copper or fiber infrastructure. On the opposite side of the coin, traditional broadband technologies are impractical for rural locations with low population density. Emerging markets in the developing world, that offer little or no infrastructure on which to build, are also looking to WiMAX to provide the connectivity they want without the high costs of a hard-wired infrastructure.

Until recently, broadband wireless applications have been proprietary and expensive. After various prototypes proved themselves viable in diverse locations including New York City and remote countryside regions, an industry consortium of some 240 equipment suppliers and service providers cooperated to establish the industry standards necessary to bring WiMAX into the mainstream.

WiMAX applications are now based on the IEEE 802.16 wireless broadband standard, and have the capability (in theory) to deliver fast speeds within a radius of up to 31 miles. WiMAX Forum certification is imminent, and, when it happens, it will spur a rollout of new products and innovative services. The new broadband wireless technology is expected to cause major changes in various industries. Film distributors and others involved in delivering quality video content in the U.S. have been some of the first to try WiMAX as an alternative way to distribute content for movie premieres. Others anticipate that WiMAX may have the most impact in countries like China and Mexico, by providing Internet access to customers who have not had previous access to cable companies or even to wired phones.


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