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Mobile WiMAX to Succeed Where Muni WiFi Failed? 93

WiNot writes "WiMAX's supporters are positioning Mobile WiMAX as an alternative to municipal WiFi networks in the wake of recent cancellation or postponement of muni WiFi projects in Chicago and San Francisco. 'There's no business case for municipal WiFi ... With many municipal WiFi deployments in a holding pattern, it may be Sprint's Xohm WiMAX network will be up and running before muni WiFi can get its act together.' From what Ars saw during its Motorola-sponsored cruise on the Chicago River earlier this week, WiMAX has the potential to deliver the goods in terms of speed, latency, and reliability. If Sprint hits its goal of blanketing metropolitan areas with WiMAX in a timely fashion and prices the service attractively, the kind of expansive municipal WiFi networks once envisioned in Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco could go the way of Pets.com and Flooz."
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Mobile WiMAX to Succeed Where Muni WiFi Failed?

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  • Doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:47PM (#20774129) Homepage Journal
    Here are the two biggest problems.

    1) Where can I buy a WiMAX wireless adapter? Hint: AFAICS, you can't. Do a search on Pricewatch or Froogle, or even go to Sprint's Web page. OTOH, every laptop being produced today comes with support for 802.11a, b, g, and/or n.

    2) WiMAX uses licensed spectrum. Cities looking to provide WiMAX service need an FCC license to do anything.
    • WiMAX uses licensed spectrum. Cities looking to provide WiMAX service need an FCC license to do anything.

      The spectrum must be liberated [slashdot.org] or the internet will be owned.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      Once the networks are up and running the equipment will become available. WiMax CPEs will still be an extra cost compared to WiFi that is included "for free" in computers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      I think you are still better off with a cellular broadband adapter, which can be bought in USB, CardBus and ExpressCard variations. Municipal WiFi is just the wrong solution to the problem, it's a duct tape solution and somehow people sound like they are expecting custom machined quality out of it.
    • Re:Doubt it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by fishdan ( 569872 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:08PM (#20774393) Homepage Journal
      Considering that there are businesses [terrapingeographic.com] in place betting on this, you can be sure that people will get that stuff to market. As for cards they also have to be licensed by the FCC [arstechnica.com]. But WiMax is going to be online very soon [arstechnica.com] -- Motorola will now not only be developing the network in Chicago, but also in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Samsung will also be developing the market in a number of cities: Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, and the previously-announced Washington D.C. Finally, Nokia will be responsible for developing the network in Austin, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and Seattle. All in all, Sprint plans to roll out WiMAX in 19 cities across the US by April 2008.
      • Sprint and Clearwire are doing a joint venture called Xohm.

        Xohm currently plans to deploy WiMax to Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington DC in 2007, but commercial service [xohm.com] won't be available to customers until April 2008 at the earliest.

        Service in other cities won't be commercially available until the end of 2008 at the earliest.

        And that's if they can even live up to their press releases. Cellular providers are much better at announcing new services than delivering them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by irtza ( 893217 )
      I agree with your sentiments. It would be nice to be able to use existing devices on this network without having to buy a new card or somehow connect it to a phone. I have a simple question. How legal would it be to say put 802.11b/g repeaters all over town in private residences? Maybe zone a city by region. I know this would be a rather slow connection, but just to provide basic wifi throughout town? Maybe only have like 9-10 base stations in a small town? and use commoditiy hardware?
      • by irtza ( 893217 )
        Would something like This product [circuitcity.com] placed in homes surrounding say a public library with free wifi be legal? How far can you repeat a signal?

        This is not an endorsement of a brand or anything, just the quickest link I could find. This would shift some of the burden to the townsfolk, but maybe the city could provide rebates to people within certain neighborhoods to have these installed?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) *
        I don't think there's anything illegal with it, provided that you have the permission of the person who's providing the actual uplink, so that you're not stealing their bandwidth.

        I once got involved with a group of people who wanted to deploy a system like that; basically a mesh network of wireless nodes. There was a linux distribution around that turned a computer with a wifi card into a mesh node, doing all sorts of neat intelligent routing. You could have multiple uplinks in the mesh at various points an
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Take a look at what http://www.clearwire.com/ [clearwire.com] is doing for an idea of pricing for the devices and service and for the kinds of adapters available. The technology they are using is fundamentally very similar to WiMax.

      The municipal WiFi players don't have spectrum, but they do have mounting locations and (in some cases) backhaul. Not trivial assets when contemplating a deployment.
    • Airspan Networks Inc. of Boca Raton, Florida has recently announced a device family called MiMax(TM) which addresses both of these problems. They now have USB 2.0 WiMax adapters for laptops, etc, which can operate on unlicensed as well as licensed bands.

      Please see today's article in CNN Money:
      http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0307789.htm [cnn.com]

      Quoting from article: "The MiMAX USB is a ground-breaking product that will enable end-users to connect to virtually every Mobile WiMAX network
    • I just got back from WiMAX World in Chicago today.

      The two popular USB WiMAX dongles are the ones by Airspan
      http://www.airspan.com/products_wimax_custprem_mimax.aspx [airspan.com]
      and Samsung
      http://www.samsung.com/us/aboutsamsung/news/newsRead.do?newstype=productnews&newsctgry=consumerproduct&news_seq=3584 [samsung.com]

      Many of the silicon vendors and makers of filters and amplifiers at the show today
      don't really expect to see much happening with WiMAX in high volumes for another year or so.
    • Congratulations on so thoroughly demonstrating that you didn't RTFA at all.
    • You are misinformed. To your first point, the WiMax cards/adapters will be available shortly before the services are launched. If you could buy one today it would not help you...right? Manufacturers of laptops and other devices have already signed up to embed WiMax the same way they have embedded WiFi. To your second point, the Cities will not need to license ANY spectrum, that is accomplished by the carriers. A much overlooked fact of the Sprint Nextel merger was that the merged company owns a nationa
    • WiMAX can use both licensed spectrum (e.g. Sprint, Clearwire) and unlicensed spectrum - the latter is more prone to interference of course, and is limited in the power you can use, so it's less useful for non-line-of-sight (NLOS) coverage (depending on how close you are to the WiMAX base station). See http://www.wimax.com/education/faq/faq48 [wimax.com].

      I'd expect the commercial WiMAX services to use licensed spectrum, but that doesn't stop someone setting up their own WiMAX network if they can find suitable hardware
    • You can't buy WiMax adapters yet because they don't exist. Motorola, Samsung, Sierra Wireless, etc. are all still working on chips and boards.

      WiMax isn't the next generation of WiFi. It's the next generation of cellular broadband. In other words, the WiMax service that Sprint / Xohm has announced is an upgrade to their existing EVDO network. You'll be able to buy adapters for it when the service starts rolling out. Until them, buying adapters that don't work with any existing providers would be pointl
  • Flooz? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:49PM (#20774155) Homepage
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Flooz.com was a venture based in New York City that went online in February 1999. Their plan was to introduce a currency unique to the Internet, somewhat similar in concept to airline frequent flier miles or even the old grocery store stamp books. (The name "flooz" was supposedly based on an ancient Persian slang term for money.) As Internet users accumulated "flooz" credits, often given as a promotional bonus along with an online purchase or else purchased directly to create a kind of Internet gift card, they could later be redeemed for real merchandise at a variety of participating online merchants.

    Flooz.com was started by former iVillage co-founder Ted Levitan, and also notably used Whoopi Goldberg in a series of TV commercials before the company collapsed, announcing their closing on August 26, 2001.

    Upon closing, all unused flooz credits became worthless. Over its history, flooz.com reportedly went through between $35 to $50 million in venture capital money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Flooz.com was started by former iVillage co-founder Ted Levitan, and also notably used Whoopi Goldberg in a series of TV commercials before the company collapsed, announcing their closing on August 26, 2001. Upon closing, all unused flooz credits became worthless. Over its history, flooz.com reportedly went through between $35 to $50 million in venture capital money.

      Someone should add "Since the flooz to dollars conversion was 1-0$, this was the day that the internet stock market plunged to its lowest level in years. It still has yet to rebound."

    • They had some many promotions that I got a ton of Flooz free and bought several nice things thanks to that $35-50 million in VC money.

      Thanks Flooz and the bubble!
  • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <wesley@felter.org> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:58PM (#20774265) Homepage
    The article oversimplifies a little when it says that WiFi uses unlicensed spectrum and WiMax used licenses spectrum; in theory WiMax can operate in the unlicensed 3.8GHz band, but equipment that actually supports that band is scarce and performance will be worse in 5.8GHz than in licensed 2.5GHz. Also, it's not clear that municipalities could get 2.5GHz licenses even if they wanted them; AFAIK the licenses have virtually all been bought by Sprint and Clearwire, who presumably have no desire to divest them. Given these factors, cities appear to have a choice between 2.4GHz WiFi, 5.8GHz WiFi, and 5.8GHz WiMax; it's not clear to me that one has a decisive advantage.
  • Next (Score:3, Funny)

    by N3wsByt3 ( 758224 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:00PM (#20774305) Journal
    Next in line: the WiiMax.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It is a little known fact that in his later years, Elmer Fudd went into the real estate business and worked for WiiMax.
    • Hey, I play that with my TV every day.

      I wiggle the aerial until it feels juuuuust right!
    • Which will be succeeded by Mad Max, the wireless warrior? :o :p :D
  • by composer777 ( 175489 ) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:07PM (#20774375)
    There's no reason to believe that municipalities wouldn't be able to deploy WIMAX as effectively as Sprint, is there?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I totally agree. If there's one thing history has taught us, it's that government is just as effective as private enterprise.
      • No, no, no, It's If there's one thing history has taught us, it's that government is just as ineffective as private enterprise.
    • If they could deploy WiMAX, why not UMTS? It's the same kind of technology; long range, uses licensed spectrum. You can buy UMTS adaptors for laptops relatively cheaply. Of course, then they'd be competing directly with mobile phone companies, but they might get away with it if they didn't have any kind of POTS termination (data only) and didn't only covered a limited geographical area.
    • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:37PM (#20778195) Homepage Journal
      If they did then the phone companies would sue for unfair competition and get the projects shut down. It's not fair for citizens to compete with their corporate overlords.
  • by darjen ( 879890 )
    The cost element of WiMax definitely worries me. I am so tired of paying full price for my cell phone service that I am taking steps to go with a combination of WiFi voip and pre-paid plans. As such I have recently acquired the Nokia n800 with Skype. Cost is the number one reason I chose to go with this platform instead of something like the iPhone. I simply can't justify paying such high data plan costs. I have heard Sprint will be coming out with a version of the Nokia N800 that includes 3g support. But I
    • Yea I have a N800 and I live in Minneapolis so I'm looking forward to when the whole citywide Wi-Fi network is done (I can hit one AP already but it gives me a pretty crappy signal a new one is going up next week just down the street) I plan to either ditch my phone all together or cut it way down for just 911 and when I'm out of the city calls.

      Plus the N800 is going to rock when I can hit wireless anywhere within the city limits. :)
  • Limitations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:12PM (#20774453)
    Does anyone truly think that Sprint, a mobile phone company, is not going to try to limit ports and nickel and dime the consumer to death. I foresee VOIP blocks, huge limitations on what you can use the bandwidth for, and maybe even per minute or bandwidth charges. Why would they lose buisness in one market to support another. This is why we need an independent third option.
  • by mrgrey ( 319015 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:16PM (#20774517) Homepage Journal
    If Sprint hits its goal of blanketing metropolitan areas with WiMAX in a timely fashion and prices the service attractively ,......

    Not a chance of it being priced attractively if Sprint is involved
    • Boy do I second that! Everytime I try to change my service plan, I end up with fewer minutes and paying just about the same. But seriously, every service provider of cell phones are after one thing... the money. They're not nice or friendly... they're greedy. It's their job to be so.
    • by neurocutie ( 677249 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:15PM (#20776003)
      Of the four major cellular carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Tmobile and Sprint), Sprint's data prices are the CHEAPEST -- broadband EVDO at $15/mo (everyone else is $20/mo or more).

      Sure, I'd love it to be free, but you really can't take Sprint to task for having expensive data service...
      • How do Sprint's EVDO speeds compare to Verizon's? I'm trying to nail down who to go with, and Sprint's pricing/contract terms seem less draconian.
        • I have Verizon. The service is good, but the prices are high. And I will most likely not renew with them once I have finished my current contract. The primary reason for that is how they intentionally crippled the Razr phones, so that (for instance) you have to use their service to transfer pictures from the phone to your computer. And the ObEx facility in BlueTooth is disabled on Verizon phones, so there is no just setting the phone near the computer to transfer pictures and MP3s. Not to mention the f
      • I agree completely. How does Verizon get away with charging $40 for what Sprint offers for $15? You'd think people that need data would all have left Verizon by now (aside from other constraints like family members on the same plan, etc).
  • by sczimme ( 603413 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:23PM (#20774615)

    IIRC, the goal of the municipal wi-fi deployments was usually to provide free Internet access to people working in and passing through downtown areas. This idea was loudly and vigorously shouted down by the organizations that provide for-pay Internet access. The roadblocks to the municipal projects were not technical; they were political.

    It seems a bit disingenuous to compare a free-to-the-end-user project* (municipal wi-fi) with a fee-paid-by-the-end-user project (wi-max service).

    * Yes, municipal services are paid for with taxes. However, there remains a distinction between this and paying directly for a specific service: think of driving on a typical interstate vice driving on a toll road.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    My job currently involves working closely with WiFi and my company is one of those rolling out WiMax solutions. I'm one of the tech monkeys who end up reading papers and papers and have to come up with ideas. The two solutions do not have to be an "either this or that". They can be complementary. For starters there are two basic kinds of WiMax, fixed and mobile. The fixed solution can give you either long distance, or large bandwidth, but not both. The mobile solution gives up both large bandwidth and ultr
  • Wimax World (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darth Cider ( 320236 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:30PM (#20774697)
    Here's a roundup of Wimax products [dailywireless.org] featured at Wimax World, where the Sprint demo took place. Scarcity of Wimax products will not be a problem.

    I've been intrigued by Eric Schmidt's comment at the keynote introduction of the iPhone. "Wimax is coming," he said, without elaborating. Googling that phrase shows that almost no journalists have considered it an important remark, even though in the next breath he coined the term "applegoog" to describe how closely Google would be collaborating with Apple. "To merge without merging," as he put it. Later, Google announced its 700MHz interests, announced a collaboration with Sprint, which has announced its partnership with Clearwire (the two big Wimax telcos) and journalists still aren't paying attention.

    So, yeah, Wimax could become the next munifi. It could also turn into serious headaches for AT&T, Verizon, and any company without a Wimax investment.
  • Everyone Forgets... (Score:4, Informative)

    by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @05:45PM (#20774913)
    Both failures and successes so easily. Everyone wants to think that their idea was first and the best.

    For a failure, Sprint tried long range microwave broadband several years ago. They were going to add it to their ION service offering, but when ION got killed, so did the microwave broadband project. Sprint isn't known for their quality of support either. Having them go back into this business is a scary prospect.

    Who says municipal wifi failed? A couple big cities that do not make up a huge percentage of land area or population of the US failed at it, and that makes the news. What doesn't make the news are the successes of nonprofit municipal partnerships such as Lawrence Freenet [lawrencefreenet.org]. I'm a happy subscriber to my municipal wifi service, and I have excellent coverage everywhere in a city of 100,000 people. Municipal wifi has not failed, but many have failed to manage it.

  • What about HSDPA? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Flipao ( 903929 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:07PM (#20775183)
    It blows both EDGE and GPRS away in terms of bandwith and latency, and has a much wider coverage than WiFi and WiMax could ever hope for, it's only drawback could be a higher battery drain, but research focus has recently shifted towards maximizing power for portable devices.

    I think WiFi is better suited towards local networking just as Bluetooth is useful to eliminate the need for wires, I don't see how WiMax can make that much of an impact unless they use an incredibly competitive pricing scheme...
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:14PM (#20775279)
    "No business case [for municipal WiFi]..."

    It seems to me that there is no business case for public parks, either.

    Not everything has to be about turning a profit for someone.

    -- Terry
    • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:42PM (#20776263) Homepage
      Yes it does! Why do you hate America and love terrorists, you left-wing commie sonofabitch!

    • by Dannon ( 142147 )
      Are you kidding? There's a huge "business" case for public parks, if you recognize that the "business" of local politicians is (usually) increasing their own power, perks, and tax revenue.

      How do they increase their power and perks? Most local politicians, at least where I've seen, are thoroughly "in bed" with local housing and commercial real estate developers. Build and keep pretty parks, sell more houses. Grow the population, get more stores.

      More population and more stores all bring in more tax revenue. A
  • Minneapolis (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I can't speak to what's going on in SF or other cities, but Minneapolis is moving forward with Wi-Fi. This page (http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/wirelessminneapolis/) is the city's information, and this page (http://www.usiwireless.com/service/minneapolis/schedule.htm) has US Internet's schedule for implementation. I'm not planning to use this, but afaik it's moving forward.
  • And here I thought WiMax was an Intel design. Anyways, it's not a,b,g, or n. It's 802.16 [intel.com].
  • reasons.

    MuniWiFi was a bad idea: WiFi in the 802.11b/g format has cell sizes that are limited because of the channel allocation. It has lousy propagation characteristics. Add that to terrible security, and interference problems with other devices.

    Then-- find a model that makes sense to fund all of this and get it deployed in such a way that it has real coverage, especially in sparse and highly dense areas. There are none.

    And only the chipset makers (Intel, stop it before you lose what little credibility you
  • Houston rocks, and we still have wireless on the table. Chicago has the L, and San Fran has the lesbos, we'll have the wireless to attract the people to us!
  • WiMAX is patented and they get a constant revenue stream for the providers out of it.

    WiFi is a lot cheaper and they get close to zilch revenue stream if people use it.

    They just want to sell hardware.
  • To paraphrase Indiana Jones: "Sprint. Why did it have to be Sprint."
    • WiMax hardware is ready to be used by CDMA based providers, but isn't ready yet for GSM. That means that it came down to just Sprint and Verizon for who would be first out of the gate in the US. Sprint did massive press releases. Perhaps Verizon decided to move slowly in hopes that Sprint would make big mistakes along the way.

  • This just seems like a reimplimentation of the old spread spectrum technologies that was big about 6 years ago. What, if any, advantage does this offer?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spread_spectrum [wikipedia.org]
    • Carrier support means economy of scale. Technical capability without socioeconomic viability is worthless.
  • Muni-WiFi that covers an entire city, not just the "downtown core", was destined to fail. You're lucky to get a WiFi signal a block away from the access point... for a smallish city, you're talking about thousands of access points to install and maintain.

    It's not as simple as plugging in a router at home and shoving in a CAT5 cable from your ADSL or Cable 'modem'. A muni-wifi network needs to find power and handle the data back-haul (though a portion of the data can be bounced over the same wifi network)
  • What amazes me is that WiMax does nothing that RF doesn't already do. It is a rebundle of existing services and technology with the potential for interoperability between radios. Nobody seems to realize this and thinks it is an "super" new tech that can break the laws of physics and do everything they ever dreamed of in a wireless world. I have built 20-30 mile RF links in the 6ghz or 11ghz at 100mbps or greater. In theory, if the company decided to change the protocol and radio registration process, this
  • I'm not an expert but have a specific question - Would Wimax be easily able to say, penetrate easily though the concrete of an underground parking garage?
    • by Daxel ( 1133853 )
      No. 900mhz would have a VERY hard time (would depend on the bounce) factor. 700mhz would have a VERY hard time (would depend on the bounce) factor. Might be able to do it with X-Ray... You stand there, and we will test.
  • This [slashdot.org] discussion seems to claim that the failing of municipal WiFi networks is their public/private business model.

    Private networks, or networks with a significant private involvement need some source of income. In order to attract paying customers, they need to provide some compelling features or performance that existing technology does not to justify their fees. Purely public networks need political support for their financing and operations costs. Municipalities that have sold such networks to their ta

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