As my “About me” section makes clear, I worked at Sprint this past summer in their WiMAX strategy group. I found it fascinating. I believe that WiMAX has a big future in the United States and the world. It is an especially powerful technology for Sprint.
Sprint’s major telecom competitors, Verizon and AT&T, are spending billions to roll out fiber optic internet networks — $18 billion + for Verizon’s FiOS and a smaller number of billions for AT&T’s U-Verse. Sprint wants to spend $5 billion + to build a next generation high speed wireless network — WiMAX. Fiber is faster than WiMAX but costs more to cover the same amount of ground. Fiber is fixed. WiMAX is wireless and will should be usable worldwide. WiMAX’s speed will compare favorably with a normal DSL/Cable internet line although the speed and bandwidth should ramp up considerably as the technology matures.
I can’t wait for WiMAX to be built into everything from my computer to camera to my coffee machine and car. An always-on, ubiquitous network will usher in the next version of the Internet and what we expect and do with that Internet.
However, reaching that point may become bumpy. Sprint’s deal with WiMAX competitor, Clearwire, is off the table. Gary Foresee, the biggest backer of WiMAX at Sprint, is out of a job. Sprint’s current wireless business is in trouble (for reasons that I may discuss later). People are predicting the downfall of WiMAX. See (here) and (here).
What do I think? WiMAX will take a faster, albeit similar, path as WiFi. When WiFi was first adopted, only the early adopters “got it.” Now, it is ubiquitous and no one would buy a computer without WiFi. WiMAX adoption will be faster.
Without going into details about my job this past summer, I can say that the team Sprint and Atish Gude have built in their WiMAX building is impressive. They think differently than the rest of the telecom community. My only hope is that the new CEO, whomever he/she may be, doesn’t shackle the group. The future of Sprint is in WiMAX (although the company definitely need to focus on the now and fix their cellular business).