Whither WiMAX?

Cliff Edwards

Remember when Uncle Sam used to talk about using the freed spectrum from switching analog TV transmissions to digital for emergency communications?
According to Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, come 2009, that spectrum will be allocated instead for the WiMax technology that has been much-touted by Intel as the way to offer universal Web access to the masses.

Gallagher at a wireless symposium in San Jose last week called the move an effort to stay "one step ahead" of Asia and Europe in providing affordable, widespread access.

Is he kidding? I can't imagine he hasn't been to places like Korea and France, where broadband is more widespread, an order of magnitude faster than even the top speeds offered by U.S. wireless carriers and cheaper per megabyte?

What's the real reason by this sudden effort? Cash, and plenty of it. The government expects to rake in billions from auctioning off the spectrum, which may become more valuable than gold if enough big-name players like Rupert Murdoch and Craig McCaw sign on more completely to the idea of using WiMax to deliver a quadruple play of services to major U.S. markets.

There's nothing wrong with auctioning the spectrum, since the government plans to free up obscure bandwidth elsewhere for military and emmergency communications, but let's at least be honest about the intentions here.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.