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By Nick Wakeman

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Is WiMax ready for prime time?

About three years ago, I got to witness a demonstration of WiMax ? the emerging wireless network technology that is capable of covering much longer distances than today's 802.11 gear.

During the demo, an SUV cruising around a Reston, Va., office park streamed video back to a nearby mid-rise building. The distance the signal traveled and the high bandwidth available was impressive. It was so impressive I assumed WiMax would soon usurp other wireless technologies. That has not appeared to happen yet.

While we've reported on uses of WiMax in government projects for customers, including the Marine Corps and San Francisco County, the technology has yet to become widespread.

Two recent announcement might indicate that the technology is finally ready for wide adoption.

Clearwire Corp. and Sprint Nextel Corp. agreed to combine their next-generation wireless broadband businesses to form a new wireless communications company.

The new company, which will be named Clearwire, will be focused on expediting the deployment of a nationwide mobile WiMAX network to provide a mobile broadband experience for consumers, small businesses, medium and large enterprises, public safety organizations and educational institutions.

The new Clearwire expects to dramatically enhance the speed and way in which customers access the Internet.

Five technology, content and communications companies ? Intel Corp., Google Inc., Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Bright House Networks ? have collectively agreed to invest $3.2 billion into the new company.

"This agreement is a historic step forward for WiMAX as it represents the first nationwide deployment of a next-generation mobile broadband Internet in the U.S.," said Paul Otellini, Intel president and CEO. "The agreement also signifies growing industry support for WiMAX. Given its flexibility, coverage and speed, WiMAX will enable the mobile Internet and is already opening doors to a host of new and exciting applications, devices and business models around the world."

Another recent announcement seems to echo Otellini's sentiment.

The University of Maryland announced it will be the home to a new laboratory dedicated to creating applications for WiMAX.

Part of the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, the university's new MAXWell Lab will provide developers of WiMAX compatible hardware and software with a large test bed and support of faculty and students in the university's highly-ranked computer science and computer and electrical engineering departments.

"It currently is difficult for a WiMAX application developer to test their application in a real environment at a neutral site," said Ashok Agrawala, director of the university's new MAXWell Lab. "This facility will support such testing extensively and the university is an excellent site for such testing."

With a university community of 50,000 people, the test bed at the MAXWell Lab will be available for testing WiMAX applications in a live environment with many users.

The MAXWell Lab is being established jointly with the university's Office of Information Technology. The University of Maryland's outside partners in the lab are the Laboratory for Telecommunication Sciences, the Naval Research Laboratory and Fujitsu.

If you have a government-based WiMax project, we'd love to hear about it. E-mail me at dbeizer@1105govinfo.com

Posted by Doug Beizer on May 08, 2008 at 7:22 PM


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