Standards battles are won or lost both on the relative merits of the technologies and the quality of the public-relations effort. The latter type of battle flared brightly last week in the wireless broadband world.
WiMAX has won the lion's share of industry buzz. As the standard nears final adoption, Intel and its partners have unleashed a blizzard of press releases about how certified WiMAX products will be available next year.
However, a competing wireless-broadband technology, FLASH-OFDM, championed by tiny Flarion Technologies, scored another major win last week, with reports that it is undergoing trials with a large wireless carrier--Australia's Telstra. That technology, also known as 802.20, already is in trials with other large carriers, such as Nextel, T-Mobile, and Korea's SK Telecom.
The trick for enterprise IT managers is to ignore the public-relations battle and remain hard-headed when considering these emerging technologies. Specifically, it's not too early to be thinking about issues such as price and coverage. Consideration of those factors has already led a few enterprises, such as the Massachusetts Port Authority, to adopt wireless broadband even though the technology is still in its infancy.
Enterprises will use wireless broadband both as a replacement for wireline access and for their mobile workers. The key issue isn't which technology is the subject of the most press releases, but whether a specific technology will be available everywhere you need it and what it will cost. How easy will it be to support a particular technology and how secure will it be?
Both WiMAX and FLASH-OFDM offer great promise, and both can certainly survive. After all, the wireless-telephony industry is divided into two major camps--GSM and CDMA--and that industry is thriving. But just as enterprises must decide which wireless voice technology to commit to, you'll eventually have to decide how you want your mobile workers to connect.