Can WiMAX Slay the Dragons?

The plot thickens with a new technology called WiMAX. Billed as both a replacement for your cable and DSL, and a sort of wide-area mobile Wi-Fi, it seems the U.S. will be getting a nationwide network a lot sooner than expected. Sprint and Clearwire, the two companies that are rushing to build a nationwide network, just announced a surprising agreement to collaborate on building a nationwide network by the end of 2008. Recent speculation had centered around the two simply signing an agreement to let customers roam on each other’s network agreement similar to what we’ve seen with the largest cellular players. That means that if you go out of coverage in Sprint’s territory, you can pick up coverage in Clearwire’s without a hassle. After similar talks broke down a couple of years ago, the two seem to be clearly feeling the heat from the inroads cable and telecom players have made in recent months by offering bundled packages of TV, broadband and phone service with consumers. Both are making a multi-billion gamble on the idea that consumers will want to have super-fast Web connections to do the same three things without tethers—meaning not just in Wi-Fi hotspots or in the office or home. Clearwire recently signed a co-selling deal with satellite providers DirecTV and Echostar for the TV portion of that proposition. It’s a race now to build the network and educate potential customers on the difference between what they have now and what WiMAX can offer.

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