WiMAX: The new broadband factor

It's a busy week here in Chicago, where the Cubs are launching their postseason odyssey and the White Sox are still trying to get into the playoffs. For normal Chicagoans, those baseball matters will take precedence, but of course, those of us who are true telecom technology followers will have only other events on our minds--WiMAX World and Telephony Live: the 2008 Telecom Summit.

I'll be paying visits to both conferences, and--well, I'll admit I'll also be checking score in between keynotes and interviews. The biggest telecom news of the week is likely to come out of WiMAX World, as Sprint Nextel this week finally rolls out WiMAX service in Baltimore. Though service providers such as TDS Telecom and DigitalBridge Communications have launched WiMAX commercially in the U.S., the latter with mobile broadband capabilities, the initial launch of WiMAX with mobile broadband by a major national carrier is an important step for the technology in the U.S. market.

Sprint's Xohm offering may not present any real threat to wireline broadband or other mobile broadband services just yet, but it does have that potential. The Baltimore launch will give us some idea if Americans are willing to switch home broadband providers for a wireless option with DSL-like speeds for around $25 per month (plus about $60 for the modem). The mobile user plan will cost a few dollars more, though of course, it will be hamstrung by coverage limitations until Sprint rolls out more WiMAX markets.

The U.S. broadband market is in a state of great change right now, as telco and cable TV customers are moving to one another's services, DSL adoption growth is declining and average citizens are trying to figure out how to keep broadband services in their dwindling household budgets. A market in flux may be just the market opportunity to give WiMAX backers some hope.

-Dan

For more:
- see this report at The Wall Street Journal

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