Friday, March 9, 2012

Ding Dong WiMax Is Dead

Last night I listened to a fascinating panel discussion, presented as part of the monthly dinner program hosted by the New Jersey Chapter of SIM. On the panel were three representatives of the vendor community and one practitioner.

  • Bob Egan - Vice President, Mobile Strategy, Mobiquity, Inc.
  • Vinod Kachroo - Senior Information Technology Executive
  • Chuck Sacco - President of Mobile Monday Mid-Atlantic, Vice President of Client Strategy at Movitas and Adjunct Faculty at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.
  • Dean Guida - President and CEO - Infragistics
The panel was moderated by JP Finnell,  Head of Mobile Strategy, SAP America Services. Under his direction, they covered a lot of ground in the mobility space but one comment in particular really struck home with me.

Many months ago I wrote a brief piece about the impending death of WiMax, the first broadly available high speed cellular wireless system. Only a year or so before, I was thrilled to have obtained a so-called 4G Sprint phone that supported WiMax. This meant my smart phone would be several times faster when it sent or received data over the WiMax network. It had little to no impact on voice service, but email or any internet related activity would be considerably faster.

Service was only available in a handful of major cities at first. Traveling in these cities, my phone delivered fantastic performance. I couldn't wait until service was available in more cities and in my area. I remember the week I showed up to my office and saw the little 4G symbol light up. Super high speed internet to my phone while sitting in the office.

At fist, Sprint was way ahead, expanding WiMax into lots of new markets. Then, there was a deal with Clearwire Communications who were going to build out a huge WiMax infrastructure. Through a joint agreement, Sprint users would soon gain access to WiMax service across the nation.

The wheels came loose when Clearwire ran into some difficulties obtaining additional bandwidth due to concerns over interference with the GPS systems. But they came off altogether when the world converged on LTE, a competitor to WiMax. AT&T, Verizon and T_Mobile, the major payers in the US all adopted the LTE standard. Moreover, with its partner, Clearwater, having difficulties, even Sprint began introducing new devices with LTE in lieu of WiMax.

These signs lead me to believe, and subsequently write, that WiMax was on its way out.

Last night, the floor opened for questions and, being the quiet and shy individual that I am, my hand went up immediately. The panel had discussed the latest devices, user interface designs and applications. But we are still limited by coverage and bandwidth, I pointed out. How do we deal with that?

Most of the response had to do with disconnected or standalone processing, store and forward logic, and tight designs that minimize traffic and therefore limit bandwidth needed. But the first statement was made by John Egan, a well know and highly respected industry veteran. He simply said, "WiMax is dead."  It's what I had predicted months ago. Even if it was old news to some people in the room, for me it was confirmation.

That was a good enough response for me.

Captain Joe

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