After attending the Sprint WiMAX press event at CES and walking away with very little in terms of details, I expected to hear more about it during the CTIA event this week. My expectations were met… sort of. We’re hearing report after report of devices that are WiMAX-ready. The Nokia N810 with WiMax was outed yesterday, as was integrated WiMAX in the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. There’s also a WiMAX PC Card (why not ExpressCard or USB?) that will be ready for sale. There’s only one problem as I see it. There’s no WiMAX service in the air to use. Pricing isn’t detailed. Coverage information and rollout plans are nebulous.
I don’t mean to paint a doom-and-gloom picture for WiMAX: I think it’s an exciting technology due to the anticipated lower price point, solid bandwidth speeds and greater range for coverage. But the facts remain that Sprint & Clearwire have had differences and Sprint needs money to help with the XOHM rollout. Even if those problems didn’t exist, it’s going to take several years to create a national footprint in terms of WiMax infrastructure, barring some new development. Since Intel makes chipsets for WiMAX, I anticipate more money and greater involvement in the whole approach… more than they offer today.What’s really interesting to me is that none of the other U.S. carriers are showing any interest in WiMAX. They’re all looking at 4G services like LTE, not WiMAX. Are they outside looking in and wishing they had taken this path? I don’t think so, but that’s simply a guess on my part.Although I’m near Philadelphia, a likely candidate for WiMAX, I anticipate I’ll be using my EV-DO Rev. A modem with Verizon Wireless for the remainder of my two-year contract (20 months to go) simply due to wider coverage. Again, I’m not looking to be a pessimist here, but the WiMAX hype isn’t yet close to living up to itself just yet. A year or two (or three) from now, I think we’ll be there. Sooner I hope.So let’s assume, I’m close to being right: it’s going to take at least one to three years before most areas have coverage. And you can’t look at coverage solely where you live, you have to look where you work, use the device and travel to. The question in my mind is: why buy a WiMAX-ready device when you’ll have no service or service in limited areas during the next year or two? Wouldn’t you expect a new device cycle (or two) to take place while you wait for WiMAX service? I’m playing devil’s advocate here of course. But I think it’s a valid question to ask. Thoughts?