October 26, 2005, 9:48 AM — Plenty of noise about WiMAX talks about ways to extend consumer broadband where cabled solutions cost too much. How about trying some of the new WiMAX products yourself to handle wireless connections across large areas?
You can certainly find some WiMAX feature to test, whether new line of sight radio network links up to 40 miles away, spreading WiFi voice phones across a wide campus, or backhauling WiFi access points far outside your wired network's reach. Whatever you learn, good or bad, will save you time and money down the road when new solutions must solve new problems.
I've visited TowerStream (.com) and wrote about their New York installation in March 2004. Since that time, they've taken their pre-standard WiMAX tools to more cities and more customers. You don't have to be a customer of theirs to try WiMAX for yourself.
Put up a transceiver in the middle of your warehouses or other large areas. WiMAX signals far outpace 802.11g for speed and distance, and vendors have products ready to go. These products aren't yet standards compliant, because the standards aren't set, but they approximate what the standard products will be.
Testing new technologies like this will force you to rely on a single vendor, if only because interoperability won't be guaranteed until WiMAX vendors come out with version 1.1 of their products (first versions tend to remain slightly proprietary). Since many of your current wireless vendors are testing equipment, you may get a good deal and get in on some development product testing. This eats up some time, but the prices stay low and you strengthen your relationship with that vendor, and get good prices on the first public products.
Look for areas your current WiFi network lets you down, such as distance, roaming handoffs, and speed. WiMAX answers those questions. Look for telecom links between close buildings you can replace with WiMAX, and show real savings. Look for places to put network connections formerly impossible because of the infrastructure problems.
Besides all these official-sounding ideas, play with WiMAX because it may be a huge network player in the next two years. Get a head start by asking for some WiMAX toys for Christmas, and start playing today while creating solutions for tomorrow.