Wait, Now Wi-Fi Is Going To Make WiMAX DOA?
By Mike Masnick, Fri Jun 18 18:30:00 GMT 2004

We've been treated to plenty of "Will WiMAX Kill Wi-Fi?" stories over the past year. Now there's a bit of pre-backlash to WiMAX with stories in the other direction.

The press has a love affair with WiMAX, to the point that they'll even refer to non-WiMAX wireless broadband as WiMAX. Combined with their penchant to wonder if new non-existent-technology A will kill already-on-the-market-technology B, there are an awful lot of "Will WiMAX Kill..." style stories.

However, in what amounts to a bit of pre-standard pre-backlash, some are starting to question whether existing technologies like Wi-Fi will make WiMAX unnecessary. Odd as it may seem to wonder if an existing (and quite successful) technology will "kill" one that is still many months from coming out, it appears that vendors who won't rely on WiMAX are pushing that story to the press.

Sky Pilot is getting everyone worked up about their plans to offer "WiMAX-like" wireless broadband using modified 802.11a equipment. The article suggests it's just like WiMAX, but cheaper due to Wi-Fi's economies of scale. Of course, in an odd move, Sky Pilot claims that standard Wi-Fi equipment won't work with its modified Wi-Fi -- though, it may be an added feature in the future if there's demand. Considering so much of Sky Pilot's story is about building on the success of Wi-Fi, you would think the easy connection part would be a core component of that strategy. Also, for all the talk about Wi-Fi being a better solution than WiMAX, the company hedges its bets by admitting to plans to offer WiMAX at some point in the future. Basically, Sky Pilot is going to be offering pre-standard WiMAX using non-standard Wi-Fi.

Meanwhile, BelAir Networks doesn't seem quite so shy in trash-talking WiMAX in favor of Wi-Fi. Their CEO is out and about trying to convince the world that WiMAX is wrong for urban environments that can be better suited by a mesh network of Wi-Fi hotspots. The argument is that all those tall buildings will decrease the real range of WiMAX and its much more efficient to drop connected Wi-Fi hotspots down inside the "urban canyons." Someone ought to warn TowerStream that its "we've got the tall buildings!" strategy might run into problems.

All of these announcements (on all sides) are really just positioning efforts by companies who have a vested interest in seeing their pony win the race. It's become pretty clear that both Wi-Fi and WiMAX have advantages and disadvantages. It's unlikely that one is going to kill off another any time soon, but they will, instead, co-exist. Users will have more options to use the technology that best suits their needs in a particular situation.