Online Extra: WiMAX Unleashed

Sure, it's faster than Wi-Fi. But WiMAX also overcomes some other information challenges

Public Health and Safety

  Imagine having "real-time" video in public safety and health situations. In crises, government agencies could share voice and data as events unfold. Vital statistics could be monitored as they come in from first responders. License plate numbers and descriptions of suspicious behavior might be transmitted directly from police cars to command centers. And doctors could remotely monitor their patients and send an alert directly to a hospital in advance of their arrival.

Entertainment

  WiMAX lets your TV shows, music, and other media content follow you around, without having to be stored on a piece of hardware. Technology built into new devices will let you pull Lost episodes off your TiVo (TIVO ), watch them on your laptop, transfer them to your phone, and then back to your TV without missing a beat. Coupled with global-positioning chips, targeted ads and services will proliferate—for better or worse.

Business

  Telecom companies will have to figure out how to handle this new kid on the block. Customers could start demanding lower prices, or they'll turn to a new WiMAX operator or set up their own private network using WiMAX equipment. The technology also gives businesses the ability to virtually manage their workforce and add and remove new services and applications quickly.

Developing Countries

  Universal telephone, video, and other multimedia services are extremely rare in less developed corners of the world. Bringing those services to remote and underdeveloped regions results in high costs and frequent delays. Not surprisingly, WiMAX and its wide-area wireless transmissions have become an attractive alternative. More than 65 countries, including Mexico, Brazil, and Pakistan, are deploying the service.

By Cliff Edwards

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