Gone but not forgotten, the Nokia N810 WiMAX tablet was available for sale during about three months. But when it seemed obvious that WiMAX rollouts would be slower than many had hoped, Nokia pulled the product.TH: We have 3G. We have 802.11. Why does the world need WiMAX?
JS: I look at it from two perspectives. Why does the world need a cell phone? If you look back at the early stages of cell phone deployments and cell phone technology, there were certainly folks who said they didn’t need it. There were plenty of pay phones, calling cards, and landline phones embedded in the way we did business. If you look at high-speed data from the perspective of a cell phone, I think the world needs it in the sense that it will “de-tether” a person from a location. Today, most people are tethered to a Wi-Fi hotspot or to a traditional DSL- or other cable-type service.
Now, compared to 3G cellular, I think the world needs WiMAX because the radio technologies out there are all bolt-on. They’re adaptations of voice technologies adapted to carry some form of data. The world has progressed. We’ve moved on from very simple graphics, very simple interactions, to very complex apps and ways people want to handle their data. Look at the success of the iPhone. But when you look at those devices, they’re struggling because the network that is underneath them is struggling to support all of those apps and their capabilities in the fullest. WiMAX brings a true broadband, multi-megabit experience to the customer, is going to afford them the ability to use those applications. That could be more telemetry-based in the public safety arena, where you have to be able to bring up images, real-time video, and things of that nature. It could be consumer-based around entertainment. Or it could be business-based, being able to do high-speed remote telematics apps or things of that nature.
TH: I use a 2.5G Blackberry—not broadband by any stretch, but it’s OK. 3G is better, and 4G is coming up. Why isn’t that good enough? I understand that WiMAX is built for data and cellular is built for voice, but all I care about is the performance of the thing in my hand.
JS: Exactly. And dial-up service compared to broadband in the earlier days, with the way the applications were built around it, was good enough. You could chat on AOL dial-up. You could have some of the same interactivities. But you didn’t necessarily have the fullness or the richness of what you can have with broadband. What we’re proposing with WiMAX is that we’ll take that true broadband experience, both in speed and latency, to the mobile environment.
I’ll give you an example. I have friends with 3G iPhones. I personally use a freaky Samsung device. But you go to sporting events and things, and you see that the network is struggling with the ability to carry the traffic. You go through airports, and the networks are struggling to deliver the throughput the devices are demanding.