Friday, January 27, 2006

What Am I Getting At With WiMax?

In the past I've blogged about WiMax, a burgeoning network technology that can provide high-speed Internet access for an area of up to 3,000 square miles. Another milestone was reached recently on the WiMax front:

First WiMax Products Receive Official Certification

By now some of you are starting to wonder why I'm so interested in this technology. Admittedly, part of it's simply tech-giggle, being excited about something nifty because it's something nifty. But there are practical applications for WiMax that can resolve a host of communication problems in our society. Let me illustrate a few.

Rural Coverage
The other day, I had a brief discussion about wireless technology with a creative director. He was curious about WiMax, and asked my thoughts on it. I told him about the area where I believe WiMax has the most value - extending affordable, reliable wireless coverage to rural locations.

Even dial-up sometimes has problems out beyond cities, and broadband? Forget it. Satellite is the only fast connection out beyond the city limits, and its exorbitant price is a big impediment to its widespread (no pun intended) use. So if a technology can extend wireless range out for several miles outside a city radius, it solves a lot of rural users' connection problems.

He admitted that he hadn't thought of that, but seemed very excited by the prospect. I also know people (like myself) that would like to move to a suburb or outside of a city for the privacy and quiet, but the lack of high-speed Internet "out there" is a big impediment. Soon, with WiMax, that will no longer be an issue.

Mobile Connection
Here's an article about WiMax being used on trains. Broadband speeds on your mobile, while moving? Only WiMax could do something like this; Wi-Fi simply doesn't have the coverage range. This kind of thing will give BART passengers a reason to smile that early in the morning.

I don't recommend reading email while driving, though. Commuter jams are bad enough as they are right now, thank you.

Being Online Anywhere - No, Really
But you're a copywriter, Chris. What about a WiMax benefit for writers like you?

That's easy. Going anywhere and being online.

You might ask, "Can't you do this now, with Wi-Fi and cellphones?" Yes. But that's not "anywhere." Wi-Fi is at coffee shops, bookstores, etc. Gathering places. Writers find inspiration in different ways, from the mundane to the weird. Oftentimes that means being someplace quiet, or alone. I know writers who like to spend hours in parks. Others like driving aimlessly in search of the muse. I personally like to go for walks and hash out what I want to say.

It'd be a bit difficult to stay online in these avenues, wouldn't it? Wi-Fi hotspots wouldn't see much coverage in a park; the connection benefit would not justify the cost. But a WiMax tower would blanket entire suburbs, every nook and cranny. True 'always on' computing, at its finest.

Why am I going through all this WiMax stuff again? I see it as necessary to inform others. Despite its promise and onrush of development, WiMax is still little-known and largely unexplored. It'll be slow to catch on, like all groundbreaking technologies, but if I can hasten the onset even a little, I'll be glad. WiMax provides tremendous benefits to business, to tech, to communication, and even to writing.



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