Recent articles on municipal Wi-Fi show that we're entering a new phase in the hype cycle for wireless broadband. We are leaving the "peak of inflated expectations" and are entering the "trough of disillusionment". No one should be surprised. Physics still rules and mobility comes with a price. Wireless broadband will be as important to broadband as cellular telephony was to landline service. But nothing comes for free.
WCA continues to delight us because of the quality of its intellectual content. Barry West, CTO of Sprint Nextel, shared his vision of the mobile Internet and explained why Sprint is building a WiMAX network. Clearwire's CEO Ben Wolff shared his company's progress to date. After the show, they announced an agreement to jointly deploy wireless broadband services across the U.S., with plans to reach 100 million potential subscribers by the end of 2008.
There's been lots of hype about the upcoming auction of 700 MHz spectrum. The recent WCA conference was a great opportunity to get up to speed. Following the conference there was more public jockeying, with Google in the spotlight. The FCC is scheduled to make its decisions just after this newsletter went to press. We think those who had been enthusiastic about the potential of the 700 MHz band for personal broadband will be disappointed. There's too little spectrum, of the wrong kind, in too small blocks, fragmented into small geographical areas, with rules that favor the existing wireless carriers to warehouse it for future voice services.
Cable operators have competition coming from all sides. At the Las Vegas Cable Show, we learned how cable operators are dealing with the competition, and where mobile services fit into their priority queue.
While some speeches at the recent WiMAX World 2006 in Boston felt like a pep rally, we saw lots of signs of progress. The heightened industry interest in WiMAX was reflected in nearly doubling the attendees over last year. We saw real products and many of the major players from the telecom infrastructure world, showing that WiMAX is becoming part of the mainstream.
Extending the Range of Metro Wi-Fi--Ruckus MetroFlex (BBHR 9/9/2006)
Ruckus Wireless specializes in smart antennas and smart software for improving the range and quality of wireless networks. Their initial focus was on improving the range and quality of Wi-Fi in the home. In an update with CEO Selina Lo, we learned more about their new product designed to improve performance of Metro Wi-Fi networks. Although investors and analysts thought they were crazy when they first entered the Wi-Fi home networking market, their success to date speaks for itself.
The biggest news in broadband wireless came after this year's WCA: Intel and Motorola announced an investment of $900 million in Clearwire and Motorola's acquisition of Clearwire's NextNet Wireless subsidiary. The convention made clear that giant companies are putting their weight behind WiMAX and the WiMAX Forum leaders are trying to steer their way through the complex technical and political landscape. Participants agreed that in the end game there will be multiple radio technologies and on-ramps to the mobile Internet, including WiMAX, Wi-Fi and 3G.
Mobile broadband wireless will be a big deal over the next five years. The WiMAX promotion machine has done a good job in raising visibility of the needs and their view of solutions. If you listened carefully, the recent WiMAX World Conference provided a nuanced view of multiple solutions, more complementary than competitive. Away from the official announcements, we spotted some storm clouds on the horizon.
"The Dawn of Mass Market Broadband Wireless" -- WCA 2005 (BBHR 7/13/2005)
WCA 2005 featured progress on WiMAX and WiBro and a healthy debate on municipal wireless. Broadband wireless access is growing rapidly and vendors are pursuing several distinct courses. While fixed WiMAX is close to certified interoperability, many companies are focused on early deployment of mobile WiMAX.
CES 2005--"Broadband on Steroids": New Wireless Networking Technologies (BBHR 1/25/2005)
Imagine the challenge of trying to keep two CEOs, a promoter Group Chair and a Chief at the FCC each to their allotted time slots. At CES, that was Dave's challenge in a session he organized and moderated on "Emerging Technologies". Topics included new wireless networking technologies for MANs, LANs and PANs plus some views from a long time Chief at the FCC .
What technologies will be important to the cable industry during the next three to five years? That topic is tackled annually by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers at their Emerging Technologies conference. Sandy and Dave both had the opportunity to share some thoughts--Sandy on competitive wireless access technologies and Dave on the evolution of Wi-Fi in the home.
WCA Winter Conference--An Update on Mobile WiMAX and WiBro (BBHR 1/25/2005)
The greatest value of a show like WCA's Winter Conference is that it gathers together all the really key players at one time and place, so you can meet with them privately and learn what's really going on. We learned a lot about Mobile WiMAX and the emerging WiBro in Korea.
It wasn't exactly an exotic vacation, but a recent trip provided us the opportunity to try out three very different forms of portable broadband. One system was designed for use in a moving vehicle; another, sporting a low entry price, for traveling to various spots around town; and a third for people in municipalities that believe portable broadband should be a public service, like roads.
City-wide broadband seems to be moving from technical experiments in small cities into the mainstream of big-city thinking. The recent announcement of plans for city-wide Wi-Fi in Philadelphia is only the tip of the iceberg. We report on some of the recent announcements, technologies and issues.
"Software Based Radios" for Wireless: Interview with picoChip (BBHR 8/15/2004)
A British chip maker called picoChip has demonstrated a "software based" modem for WiMAX base stations. It got us thinking about future devices which gracefully roam between Wi-Fi, WiMAX and cellular 3G services.
The broadband wireless industry is again rising from the depths. This time it may be for keeps. Attendees at the most recent WCA 2004 show included many of "the big boys" and FCC Commissioners and staff made their presence and interest widely apparent. Within a group previously focused on fixed broadband wireless, changes from earlier shows included the huge momentum around WiMAX and the promise of mobility.
Talks by FCC Chairman Michael Powell and wireless pioneer Craig McCaw
FCC Commissioners and senior FCC staff talking about expanding spectrum for wireless
The current status of WiMAX and other fixed and mobile wireless technologies
The emergence of "broadband anywhere" and "portable broadband"
Arraycomm is playing two roles in personal broadband. While its own iBurst system is being rolled out in Australia, its smart antenna technology could be used to improve any broadband wireless system.
Broadband Central -- More on Wi-Fi for Wireless Broadband Access (BBHR 10/20/2003)
We're big fans of finding ways to bring broadband to unserved communities. Broadband Central's goal is to do just that. While we are bullish about the future of broadband wireless, to date we have not seen systems based on Wi-Fi that meet the requirements for creating expandable, reliable wide-area broadband services. Our recent interview with Broadband Central didn't provide the facts to convince us that they have overcome the technical and business hurdles that concern us.
Celeria: Wireless Access To Cable Networks: A Guest Article by Inés Vidal Castiñeira (BBHR 8/21/2003)
During our recent visit to Spain, we heard about Euskaltel’s Celeria Project. We invited Inés Vidal Castiñeira to share with you the Technology Department’s approach to providing triple-play services to low population density areas. Although Euskaltel already had a fiber ring infrastructure from which they reached end users with HFC and twisted pair, this approach was not cost effective for serving small municipalities. Instead, they developed a wireless approach to deliver digital video, cable modem and voice services to these customers.
In the same way that mobile phones have become commonplace over the past decade, we expect mobile broadband data devices will do so over the next ten years. The groundwork is being set with people's increasing use of broadband at home, the growth of Wi-Fi home networking and hot spots, the ubiquity of personal portable devices (in the form of cell phones) and the emergence of technologies which promise affordable equipment for non-line of sight broadband over wide areas. The broadband home is extending far beyond the four walls of people's houses into "broadband anywhere". What's not clear is which service providers will reap the benefits.
Afitel - Wi-Fi in Zamora (Banda Ancha - Broadband in Spain) (BBHR 6/17/2003)
During our trip to Spain, we met with the incumbent and several aspiring broadband competitors. Despite differences between countries, we found many common themes across borders, including the move to "all IP," innovations in wireless and PLC technologies, and public policy to spur broadband competition. Muchas gracias to our readers in Spain for sharing their insights with us.
Broadband Wireless World - The "Big Boys" Have Arrived (BBHR 5/14/2003)
Last month's Broadband Wireless World was a fascinating mix of WISPs serving rural America, independent telcos, vendors large and small, and mega-players like Intel and Verizon. Although there was plenty of focus on Wi-Fi and the use of unlicensed spectrum, there was also a growing focus on other standards like 802.16 and licensed frequencies, particularly by the established players.
We've heard so much hype about Wi-Fi that we thought we'd try to provide a dose of reality. We do believe that broadband wireless has a great future -- but it's not all Wi-Fi in spite of what you read in the press.
The past thirty years have seen mobile telephony move from the first public call to having more mobile subscribers in the world than wireline phone subscribers. During a conference panel we organized called "Wireless: The Road To Broadband Anywhere", four industry leaders discussed the evolution path for providing broadband not just to homes and offices, but to people who want information, communications and entertainment wherever they may be.
Clearwire in Jacksonville: A Wireless Case Study in Progess (BBHR 3/17/2003)
The words "broadband" and "wireless" are appearing together with increasing frequency. In the US and many other places, DSL and cable remain the major paths for delivering broadband services to consumers. Clearwire's launch in Jacksonville, Florida provides an opportunity to see what happens when broadband wireless is introduced in a city where both cable and DSL services have been available for some time to many of the residents. We visited to see how they are doing.
As people get used to having a broadband connection to a mobile device, they start wishing they could be connected wherever and whenever they want to. This article covers some recent developments in wireless technologies and services that promise to make broadband available anywhere. We conclude that wireline combined with Wi-Fi will often be most effective in and near buildings, and new "WirelessMAN" technologies will dominate where there's lower population density.
We're seeing signs that broadband wireless access to the home is on its way to becoming a viable way to compete against (or complement) DSL and cable broadband. Technologies to send broadband data from a central point to the home, through the air, reliably and cost-effectively, seem to be emerging. We attended WCA's Technical Symposium & Business Expo in San Jose to get a better understanding of the key issues and a sense for how real an impact this technology will have.