Trend: Fast, inexpensive wireless broadband will available next year, and it will jumpstart mobile networks into the next wave of computing and communications.
Katie Fehrenbacher at GigaOM describes Sprint's commitment to mobile WiMax and the implications for partners and competitors. Excerpts below.
Sprint confirmed it has chosen mobile WiMAX as the technology for its 4G network and says it will spend between $2.5 billion and $3 billion on capital expenses by 2008. The company says it is working with Intel, Samsung and Motorola, though didn’t specify how much additional money each of those companies is investing in the plan.
Sprint executives said the network will offer between 2 to 4 Mbps, and will be launched in the Q4 2007, with a nationwide rollout in 2008. With that much bandwidth available, Sprint executives referred to a network that will be built to run user-generated content, and enabling subscribers to access “YouTube and MySpace on the fly.”
Sprint detailed some of the reasons for its mobile WiMAX choice, and said the company can create a “mobile WiMAX ecosystem” with 4 times the performance and a tenth of the cost of a technology like EVDO. In a call after the conference Sprint phrased the benefits as providing ten times the combined performance and cost saving over other available networks, but wouldn’t clarify more on this somewhat confusing metric.
All of the cheering on the call was of course at the expense of Qualcomm, which Sprint did not choose for the 4G network, and which builds a business off of owning proprietary IP standards and a closed model. Sprint said Qualcomm’s tech was not chosen for technical differences, among a variety of reasons, and emphasized its interest in mobile WiMAX as a global standard with a business model for building an ecosystem.
...The first winner is Motorola, who looks to have taken a huge early lead over rivals such as Ericsson and Nokia and is in a good position to stave off the coming threat of AlcateL(ucent). The second winner is Samsung, who is right now the biggest WiMax player from a global perspective and can make the most compelling argument that the are The Leader, when dealing with emerging markets (which is a far bigger play than the US in the long term). The third winner is all the small-time players who have already deployed WiMax (well preWiMax and upgradeable to WiMax really) in the 2.6 GHz band. These guys now have the potential to craft nationwide roaming offerings for their customers. They also get a good outlook for an exit plan, as sooner or later Clearwire or Sprint will look to gobble them up, which means it should be easier for them to raise money to continue to build out their regional networks.