Will WiMAX displace Wi-Fi in public safety?
The wireless broadband technology known as WiMAX tends to get lost in the hype surrounding Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, the next-generation standard selected by the world’s major mobile operators. As such, most people are coming to the conclusion that LTE is the winner of this latest standards war.
That logic makes sense, but it doesn’t mean that WiMAX will die or even suffer from a lack of economies of scale. While the technology has lost its luster over the past year, it is quietly making strides around the world, primarily in developing countries that lack broadband connectivity. Pakistan boasts one of the largest WiMAX deployments in the world. In the U.S., Clearwire, backed by Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner, Intel and Google, is moving ahead with WiMAX deployment plans across the U.S.
According to Ron Resnick, president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum, the organization’s main focus for 2009 is urging India and Latin American countries to timely release new spectrum for wireless broadband. Such a release in both countries would create a significant footprint for WiMAX. Moreover, Resnick calls the $7.2 billion in stimulus money coming down from the federal government for broadband initiatives a godsend for WiMAX, in that it currently has the first-mover advantage over LTE.
What that means is the public-safety community shouldn’t be afraid of WiMAX, despite the fact that it won’t be adopted by the world’s largest operators — typically the gatekeepers of economies of scale.
In an article (Alvarion: WiMAX gaining traction in public-safety market) published today, WiMAX vendor Alvarion talks about the traction it is gaining in the municipal and public-safety markets with WiMAX. The vendor is working to be frequency agnostic. That is, it will deliver equipment for every frequency that demonstrates a market for WiMAX — from 900 MHz to 5.9 GHz. It can do so cost effectively because of the way the vendor constructs its system, whereby the radio is a separate unit that can be traded out to accommodate different frequency bands.
As such, we could very well see WiMAX play a larger role in the municipal and public-safety space, either displacing Wi-Fi or coming alongside of it to complement and enhance the applications that are already in use.
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