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With initial tests registering average data speeds between 2.5Mbps and 4Mbps, Sprint's WiMAX network easily outpaces its rivals' 3G networks and will likely continue to do so until Verizon launches its 4G LTE services over the next year. This increased speed has obvious appeal to consumers who want to stream high-definition video easily over their mobile phones and use high-bandwidth applications. But if you're a business owner, what's in it for you?
According to Sprint, there's quite a bit. The big application that 4G enables is mobile video conferencing that can let workers stream video of themselves without needing a wireline connection. Jeff Adelmann, Sprint's director of device and 4G marketing, says that the added mobility of video conferencing over WiMAX allows users to deploy a high-speed connection to the Web more rapidly than if they have to rely on wireline connections. Eventually, he thinks that as WiMAX connection speeds increase and as the service becomes more ubiquitous, business customers will use WiMAX to replace their wireline services and simply go with a wireless network as their main way to connect to the Web.
"I think having one carrier manage all their data services will greatly simplify things for them," he says. "So let's say you're H&R Block and you want to deploy a kiosk during tax season in a location that's pretty remote. With a 4G connection you can set it up in minute, whereas it could take weeks to deploy a wireline connection there."
The ability to rapidly deploy a wireless broadband connection can help with applications besides mobile business conferencing, of course. Brent Kohman, Sprint's 4G marketing manager, notes that high-speed wireless broadband also provides great flexibility for surveillance systems and e-health services to quickly go up and come down wherever they're needed.
As an example he cites what the Annapolis Police Department has done using a WiMAX-enabled camera that is being used in areas that are far away from the center of Annapolis and thus can't provide connectivity to cameras that are hooked up to city fiber infrastructure via Wi-Fi connections. He also says that some construction companies have found WiMAX-enabled cameras to be very convenient since they can easily set them up at various construction sites without having to worry about having wireline infrastructure in the area.
"We're finding that for construction companies, using video surveillance can offer jobsite security at a very low cost from what it delivered in the past," he says. "We can implement it and it takes us an hour to do. What's more, it can be moved pretty easily."
But while Sprint's WiMAX offerings do present businesses with some enticing benefits and features, the company admits that it still has more work to do to meet every enterprise's demand for a high-speed wireless network. For one thing, Sprint's WiMAX coverage is far from ubiquitous, especially if you live in a rural area. By year-end, Sprint's partners at Clearwire will have built out a WiMAX network that spans all major U.S. markets and that covers 120 million POPs. This means that you'll be able to get WiMAX coverage if you're located in a city but you'll still be out of luck if you have branch offices in rural locations.