I'm really not trying to make this the all-WiMAX issue, but I had the opportunity recently to speak with Paget Alves, president of Sprint's business markets group about what enterprise segments the operator is targeting with WiMAX, which gives some indication of where next-generation technologies, including LTE, will find their niche. Interestingly, Alves' first mention when it comes to enterprise services was public safety, as he believes the market provides a straightforward opportunity for mobile video-surveillance services.

Sprint is moving in tandem with Clearwire — Sprint is the majority owner and is reselling the operator’s WiMAX service — and has an aggressive rollout schedule, with plans to blanket services to at least 120 million potential customers this year. That bodes well for public safety because Sprint Nextel — which already has relationships with many agencies through its Nextel push-to-talk business — is heavily targeting public-safety users with mobile video-surveillance services.

In fact, Alves indicated that public safety has become the earliest adopter of the technology. For instance, the Annapolis (Md.) Police Department has partnered with Sprint to create remote-monitoring solutions using cameras paired with a WiMAX router and a 3G/4G mobile broadband card. While video surveillance is quite common using stationary mesh networking, the fact that WiMAX is a mobile technology means that first responders can quickly move cameras to where they are needed, Alves said.
The ability to get eyes on an incident, regardless of where it is occurring, certainly would be a boon for crime-fighting.

Moreover, WiMAX often is used for a variety of applications outside of last-mile access. That means it also could serve as wireless backhaul for on-the-go, bandwidth-intensive applications like video.

In addition, products like the battery-operated router from Cradlepoint Technology could bring WiMAX capabilities to devices that aren't even WiMAX-enabled, as long as they are Wi-Fi-enabled. Cradlepoint's router converts a WiMAX signal into a Wi-Fi signal that can connect to as many as eight Wi-Fi devices. Motorola also has developed a device that combines WiMAX with a Wi-Fi front-end radio, but the vendor so far only is making that product for the 3.5 GHz band.

This type of service won't replace fixed mesh networks, some of which are enabling mobile handoffs, but will become a significant complementary service that very well could become integrated into meshed networks. The high-speed mobile promise is what LTE is suppose to be all about, but until the vision comes to fruition, operators like Sprint, Clearwire and other Clearwire resellers could very well become "public-safety" specialists in the meantime. Clearwire is actively courting new resellers, and many are expected to specialize in various business solutions, with video surveillance at the forefront.

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