With Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and 3G being jockeyed around by a multitude of vendors and seeming to compete with each other, a new examination of wireless-LAN markets suggests they will eventually all coexist successfully, once their respective business models play out and take shape.
"I think we'll eventually see concentric circles of wireless data coverage," said Richard Webb, of Infonetics Research, in an interview Tuesday. "The first [circle] will be Wi-Fi, then WiMAX, and then 3G. Finally it will be 2.5 GSM or GPRS." He noted that the speeds and robustness of the different layers will decrease as they move away from Wi-Fi.
Webb, who is the firm's directing analyst, Wireless LANs, studied the strategies, technology requirements, and implementation plans of 24 global fixed-line and mobile-service providers, as well as a number of wireless ISPs. He noted that currently they are grappling with fundamental business model questions, "such as how services will be priced and bundled and how big the potential market is."
Based on his findings, Webb believes VoIP will be the application that will promote widespread adoption of wireless LANs throughout the enterprise. In addition, the overall phenomenon should push the Wi-Fi market. Some 50 percent of the study's respondents said they expect to offer packetized-voice services in 2006.
He believes that the circles of wireless technologies could be somewhat problematic for the fixed-line service providers, including the former Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) in the U.S. "They will have a challenge," he said, noting that wireless LANs in homes attached to VoIP and cell-phone service could work to squeeze the RBOCs.