Maybe WiMAX Isn't Such A Slam Dunk
By Mike Masnick, Mon Jun 21 21:45:00 GMT 2004

After all we've heard about the guaranteed success of WiMAX, some questions are starting to come up about some potential spectrum problems facing US implementations of the technology.

There have been plenty of stories in the press lately that suggested WiMAX was already quite a success, rather than a standard that's still being worked on and that has a fair amount of competition. However, some are beginning to realize that WiMAX isn't quite the slam dunk that we've been told. The latest issue is that spectrum issues may present a fairly large problem in the US.

WiMAX is touted for its expected ability to work on both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, but many companies seem nervous about the issues associated with using unlicensed spectrum, such as interference and any lawsuits that may result from such spectrum competition. In the licensed areas, a few companies already have control over much of the lucrative spectrum. That leaves out most of the smaller or independent players who were supposed to be able to share in WiMAX's glory without having to auction off their souls to the FCC.

However, the limits of the available unlicensed spectrum means that many companies may have trouble offering WiMAX with the kind of quality of service customers are going to expect. Some are pushing the FCC to release more spectrum as license exempt, but so far the FCC hasn't been willing to budge from their breadcrumbs for broadband policy they seem to have decided on. They talk a good game about the importance of wireless broadband, but then refuse to come up with a greatly needed policy to overhaul spectrum allocation. None of this means WiMAX won't eventually do what everyone claims it will -- but the smaller players who hoped to be able to compete equally with the licensed spectrum owners may discover that WiMAX isn't what they expected.