WiMAX, 3G, Wi-Fi battle for your business

* Let the broadband wireless games begin

The battle to woo you to a particular wireless camp has heated up in the past month. The first U.S. mobile WiMAX service went live last week, just as devices with embedded connections to worldwide High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 3G services began being aggressively marketed by the GSM Association. In the meantime, integrated, flat-rate global Wi-Fi voice and data service packages have also become available.

The U.S. gained a commercial mobile WiMAX service in Baltimore from Sprint Nextel’s Xohm business unit, with Washington, D.C., and Chicago to follow by year-end. Sprint and its joint-venture partner Clearwire expect to cover the top 100 U.S. markets with mobile WiMAX service by late 2010. Worldwide, there are more than 407 commercial WiMAX service deployments in 133 countries, according to the WiMAX Forum.

For now, you buy special card and modem add-ons for your mobile devices to access the WiMAX service. However, embedded WiMAX connections are expected to ship in Intel Centrino 2 devices and the Nokia N810 Internet tablet by year-end.

Meanwhile, the GSMA fired a return salvo by teaming with 16 notebook makers, chipset companies and mobile operators to pre-install HSPA connections into laptops and actively market the embedded capabilities with a GSMA “Mobile Broadband” service mark. Mobile broadband in this case means HSPA, which offers up to 3.4Mbps downlink speeds and is available across 198 networks in 92 countries, according to the GSMA.

Oddly, AT&T wasn’t listed among the companies promoting the Mobile Broadband service mark, though it is the primary U.S. HSPA service provider. It covers 320 major metro markets as of last month and plans to increase that coverage to 350 by year-end.

T-Mobile was among the promoters, however. The carrier last month said it would expand its 13-market 3G U.S. service to 21 this month and to 27 by year-end. Among the other GSMA Mobile Broadband promoters were Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft, Orange, Qualcomm, Telefónica Europe, Telecom Italia, TeliaSonera, Toshiba and Vodafone.

And to help international travelers cope with country-to-country mobile WAN roaming charges, DeFi Mobile launched its $40-a-month DeFi Global Access carrier-class Wi-Fi service that allows unlimited phone calls and data usage. The service is available across hotspots in 75 countries, 15,000 hotels, 120 international airports and tens of thousands of coffee shops, restaurants and marinas around the world, the company says.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.