• United States

WiMAX could provide broadband competition in rural areas

Jan 23, 20062 mins

* WiMAX could help providers offer competitively priced services in rural areas

Just before Christmas, we published a response from a reader who complained that the lack of competition in rural areas was keeping prices for broadband access high (see “Mailbag: Triple-play services and voice services”). In that newsletter, we observed that perhaps technology evolution could help bring broadband access prices down. Looks like WiMAX may be one such technology, and companies like Clearwire may help bring about competitive pricing, even in rural areas.

Clearwire offers services in cities like Visalia, Calif., and Killeen, Texas and is focused on the rural marketplace. Although both cities enjoy at least two wireline broadband providers these smaller cities are probably not on any wireless service providers top 10 list for 3G wireless deployments or on AT&T’s list for high-speed DSL.

As for competitive prices, Clearwire offers 756Kbps downlinks for $34.98 per month and 1.5Mbps downlinks for $41.98 per month in Visalia, including the price of a WiMAX modem. Although about twice the price as SBC’s DSL service (at $16.99 for comparable speeds) Clearwire’s rate is less than half the price of Cingular’s Laptop Connect plan listed at $99 per month.

While WiMAX is still in the early days of adoption when compared to DSL and cable subscribers, it does represent an opportunity to provide mobility within a diametrical range of 30 miles from the WiMAX serving antenna – mobility that can be handy when in the orange groves that surround Visalia or a when out on a sales call in Killeen.

Today’s WiMAX standard supports claimed rates up to 70Mbps of shared availability. For connectivity, users have a choice of a PCMCIA card offered by several manufacturers, or more traditional desktop modems that can be connected to a computer or local router.

Of course, this wireless access could be used to transport VoIP since users are connected to the Internet. We can’t wait for the day when someone starts using WiMAX for triple play services – but that day may be sooner than we think. We’ll talk about who’s interested in WiMAX next time.