Recent reports that it may be headed for a fall position WiMax as a long shot in the race for 4G wide area wireless domination. This uncertainty is a shift from last year, when WiMax seemed destined for greatness: Major players, including Intel, Nokia, Samsung, and Sprint Nextel, rallied around the WiMax banner, promising faster, cheaper connectivity thanks to low-cost, standards-based radios that would integrate wireless into devices we couldn't even imagine, from media players to automobiles to gaming systems. With Intel baking IEEE 802.16 into its Centrino chipset, many new laptops would become broadband-wireless enabled. WiMax would do for wide area wireless what Wi-Fi did for WLANs. Sprint Nextel promised service in two cities, Chicago and Washington, by the end of 2007. The company's proposed alliance with Clearwire would accelerate U.S. deployment of WiMax on a nationwide network with common roaming--and a common marketing name: Xohm.
A new era of broadband wireless was to be born.
Then reality set in. The Sprint Nextel- Clearwire talks fell apart in November. Verizon Wireless said it would migrate to the Long Term Evolution standard to provide a path for 4G services to its customers. And as quickly as the industry lauded WiMax as the next big thing, some began to speculate as to whether the spec could survive.
Don't count it out yet. Sprint Nextel must offer WiMax services to a wide swath of customers lest it lose spectrum. Intel is set to ship WiMax-capable chipsets, while Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks are betting on the technology in developing regions. Whether enterprise IT groups should add "WiMax-capable" to purchasing guidelines for new laptops and smartphones still depends heavily on geography, however.