Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Feds betting big on WiMAX

Forbes magazine is reporting today that the Federal Communications Commission and some in Congress are betting heavily on WiMAX technology to provide a wireless broadband alternative to the telco/cable duopoly.

They aren't the only ones. Forbes reports Yahoo!, Google, eBay, Intel , Skype and satellite TV providers EchoStar and DirectTV also want a so-called broadband "third pipe" installed to break the telco/cable choke hold whose incomplete wireline systems fail to bridge the "last mile" to bring broadband to far too many residences.

The FCC wants to auction off television broadcast frequencies currently used by TV channels 52 to 69 that will become available in 2009 when TV broadcasters are required by the FCC to convert from analog to digital transmission.

Forbes reports there are concerns that telcos like AT&T and Verizon could buy up the frequencies not to use them, but to keep them off the market in order to protect their wireline-based systems, prompting consumer groups to advocate for auction rules that would disallow the practice.

The FCC is also reviewing a wireless broadband concept being advanced by a coalition comprised of Dell, EarthLink, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Philips Electronics. A prototype device has been submitted for FCC testing by the White Space Coalition that uses different transmission technology to beam ultra-fast wireless broadband via unused "white spaces" in the current analog TV broadcast spectrum. It could come on line as early as February 2009 if approved.

The next year or so will likely determine if wireless broadband can become a viable "third pipe" alternative beyond the current coffee shop and airport Wi-Fi connections and which -- if any -- of these wide area wireless broadband technologies will provide that sought after third pipe.

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