January 14, 2010, 11:32 AM — Just how portable can mobile networking be? At CES 2010 we saw examples of traditional applications being reduced to a tiny footprint. One of the great examples is Speedstream TV, a boon for journalists in the field, and a great example of taking an application and shrinking it from truck-sized into a backpack. Now, Speedstream TV is expensive when compared to just about any consumer video application -- it's around $25,000 today -- but compared to the cost of a mobile broadcast van like those television stations use, it's an absolute bargain. In it's current iteration it might not create an army of citizen journalists, but it could make it possible for media outlets to put more reporters in the field. And given the way technology pricing and packaging trend, in a couple of years we could very easily see a citizen journalist backpack that will match anything the local TV stations can do today.
Speedstream TV is based on the Clearwire WiMAX network, and shows the promise that wireless broadband can offer to a lot of different industries. The only drawback at this point is network footprint -- WiMAX today makes any of the maps from the famous cell-provider commercials look like blanket coverage by comparison.
I'll admit that I've been a bit of a WiMAX sceptic, knowing full-well that some of the breathless early statements were bogus and wondering whether a slow rollout would allow WiMAX to be overtaken by 4G before it even got off the ground. I still think there could be competitive issues, but applications like this one make it far more likely that we'll see WiMAX take hold and win enough customers to make wider rollout more likely. That's going to be a good thing, regardless of which industry you're in.å