WiMAX: Worth the wait?
October 26, 2007, 9:57am PDT | Length: 00:04:04
WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) promises ubiquitous high-speed mobile wireless broadband connectivity. Tom Flak, the CMO of Soma Networks, discusses the vision behind WiMAX and the complexities of its deployment.
Tom Flak: Hi, I'm Tom Flak, Chief Marketing Officer for SOMA Networks. Today my topic is "WiMAX, Is It Worth The Wait?"
According to The Yankee Group, we'll see 25 million WiMAX users by the year 2011. Now, what are all these users going to be doing? That comes to the vision of WiMAX.
First of all, users are going to have online, over the air, access to content. They'll be able to download video and audio files directly to their mobile media devices. Imagine also being able to publish video and photography to one's blog, or to their website, with cameras and video cameras that have WiMAX chipsets and wireless technology integrated into those devices. You can go on down the line and talk about online gaming devices and other consumer electronics equipment, all incorporating this high speed wireless Internet capability.
With over 400 companies collaborating in the WiMAX Forum to bring this technology to market, it's reasonable to ask, "What's taking so long? When is WiMAX finally going to get here? Will it be worth the wait?"
I want to talk about it in three areas. First of all, the life cycle of WiMAX, and then I want to talk a little bit about the complexity of bringing this technology to market, and then finally talk about the phases.
In terms of the life cycle, technology like this first goes through a process of standardization to enable interoperability and to allow a lot of companies to work independently on different parts of the system. That leads to the development of silicon, chips, and components that are going to go ultimately into the products and drive down the costs for the consumer. Products are put together into network systems by companies, like SOMA, and delivered to service providers, like AT&T; who test the system extensively, integrated into their back office systems and then ultimately deploy on a large scale before the services finally get to the consumer. This is a process that simply takes a couple of years to get through.
Because WiMAX is a public network technology, rather than say, a private local area network technology, it has additional complexity. It has to take care of security concerns so that user's data is private and so that carrier networks are prevented from fraud. Also, quality of service is very important to make sure the users get the services they're paying for. For the operator to successfully run these networks, they have to have great management capabilities, large scale, and high availability. Building systems with these characteristics takes longer than building a simpler sort of enterprise or private network technology.
Finally, WiMAX is coming to us in three phases. This first phase is actually already commercially shipping, and it's called 802.16d, also known as Fixed WiMAX. Now, while this technology is shipping, it's not mobile, so it's not going to have a massive consumer type of application. For that, we're going to need 802.16e, also known as Mobile WiMAX.
This is the real WiMAX, and it's the one that can deliver the promise of ubiquitous high speed Internet. It's coming in two phases, Wave One and Wave Two. Wave Two is very important. It's the key technology. It's the final version of WiMAX and this is the one that brings us to multi antenna processing technologies one called MIMO, Multi Input, Multi Output, and the other called Advanced Antenna Systems. These are important to give us a quantum leap in speed and range for WiMAX technology.
These factors explain some of the reasons WiMAX is taking longer to come to market than initially anticipated, but we are getting there. So, when is it finally going to arrive? Well, we anticipate that services are going to be deployed and offerings are out to consumers by the second quarter of 2008. At that point, consumers can start to enjoy the benefits of WiMAX. Will it be worth the wait? Well, we think so because WiMAX is the first and only technology that's really going to bring a true high speed Internet connectivity to any device, at any time and at any place.