Although WiMax offers no huge speed advantage over today's technologies, pricing may be a selling point. Towerstream's Giftakis said, "I can confirm that our business customers will be paying less than market T1 prices to get WiMax. On the consumer side, Clearwire is offering service from $10 for a day to $50 for a month. I don't expect this will drastically change in the near term."
WiMax, Wi-Fi or both?
To access WiMax, you're going to have a wide variety of hardware choices, including notebooks, netbooks, handhelds and mobile Internet devices with built-in WiMax radios, according to Julie Coppernoll, director of marketing for WiMax at Intel Corp. "Numerous embedded WiMax laptops based on Intel Centrino 2 processor technology are now available," she said via e-mail. In addition, USB modems will bring WiMax into your home or office, replacing your wired Internet connection.
But WiMax won't necessarily replace Wi-Fi. WiMax/Wi-Fi translators, such as Cradlepoint Inc.'s Clear Spot router, can create a local Wi-Fi network from a WiMax signal. That Cradlepoint device, which is available now, allows any existing, off-the-shelf Wi-Fi device to connect to a Clearwire WiMax network, said Coppernoll. "The Clear Spot creates a personal Wi-Fi hot spot that travels with consumers anywhere they happen to be within Clearwire's mobile WiMax service area," she said. Using it, people can avoid local Wi-Fi hot spot fees -- and, as WiMax rollouts continue, they might be able to pick up WiMax service in areas where they can't find a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Other companies are also bridging the gap between WiMax's 802.16 and Wi-Fi's 802.11 protocols. Cisco Systems Inc., for instance, plans to introduce devices with that capability under its Linksys brand within the next six months.
Wi-Fi Alliance executive director Edgar Figueroa also sees WiMax and Wi-Fi working hand in glove rather than the newer technology replacing the older. "While WiMax provides excellent range, Wi-Fi's performance profile and power consumption traits make it the right networking technology for the local area," he said in an e-mail interview. "As we're seeing today on the cellular side, WiMax providers will also look to Wi-Fi as an alternative connection to migrate users from scarce licensed spectrum -- and users will gravitate to Wi-Fi for its affordability."
When can I get WiMax?