WiMAXimum Exposure

WiMAX has been on the industrys brain lately with the high-profile rollout of the Sprint-Nextel mobile WiMAX network, set to go live at the end of the year. But how will this technology affect CLECs and other service providers? Thats the question todays panel hopes to answer.

WiMAX provides hope to competitive carriers looking for an alternative to RBOC-leased access and transport; and it also supplies a potential mobility component for data services. On the other hand, WiMAX providers may just eat CLECs for lunch.

COMPTELs a great place to have a discussion around WiMAX, said Jim Orr, principal network architect at Fujitsu Network Communications. Is it a hazard or an opportunity? The answer is probably both. But WiMAX works, the business plan is functional, and you have to address it.

Orr said the panelists plan to have a clear discussion about using WiMAX for last-mile bypass. Some say yes, its great, he noted. Others say its a miserable idea. Well talk about when it works and when it doesnt.

Some take the view that it will be one more arrow in the quiver. Its important to help people have a clear vision of what the future holds using Wi-Fi and WiMAX, said panelist Patrick Bennett, executive vice president of marketing development at Covad Communications. Our vision is around the convergence of the two, with other technologies, to form a ubiquitous network with which to serve the SMB space that you can layer applications across.

 Covad, he said, plans to use WiMAX for portable and nomadic (35-40mph) services. The future is not that bright for COMPTEL attendees that dont go beyond pure connectivity and offer something more, like advanced data applications and mobility, he added. Then you get to competing on lowest price, like we always do, and I dont think the industry can sustain that much longer.

The panelists also will cover fixed versus mobile WiMAX. Today, its all fixed WiMAX deployments, and thats OK, said Orr. Mobile WiMAX will be less expensive, but for businesses, youre going to want outdoor CPE anyway.

Spectrum is another topic of todays discussion. At the moment, Sprint and Clearwire Corp. dominate the available licensed spectrum for certified WiMAX equipment. The 700MHz auction is coming up for spectrum that can enable WiMAX, but its unlikely that any but the largest CLECs could afford to bid on the swaths available. Also, there is no certified equipment available for that band yet. That leaves CLECs with three options: use unlicensed spectrum, look for wholesale opportunities or use alternative airwave options with uncertified equipment.

Bennett said Covad plans to take a hybrid licensed/unlicensed approach. The real key is the ability to build and operate a network that will be profitable, he said. The spectrum will present itself in some fashion, we have no doubt.

Ed Vilandrie, co-founder and director of strategy consulting group Altman, Vilandrie & Co., will lead the discussion.

Altman, Vilandrie & Company
Covad Communications
Fujitsu Network Communications

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