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Cheap High-Speed Internet Revolution Next Year

Many of you have heard of WiFi, the technology that allows one to communicate without wires to gain access to a local network or the Internet. Well, there has been a radical breakthrough that is just now finalizing its standards. WiMax, also known as 802.16a, is a wireless networking standard that offers greater range and bandwidth than the Wi-Fi family of standards, which includes 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g. Whereas Wi-Fi is intended to provide coverage over relatively small areas, such as in offices or "hot spots," WiMax can transfer about 70Mbit/sec. over a distance of 30 miles to thousands of users from a single base station.

Please reread the last sentence again and you will begin to understand why this standard is a miracle breakthrough. The key here is that it can transmit up to 30 miles. WiMax's greater range and higher bandwidth gives service providers the ability to offer broadband Internet access directly to homes without having to worry about the problems that can arise when laying down a physical connection over the so-called last mile, which connects homes with service providers' main networks. This will virtually eliminate the need for wired Internet and will radically lower prices.

So why should you be as excited about this as I am? Because this is a radical revolution for the Internet. Many still do not have access to broadband (high speed) Internet. It was only offered a few months ago in the neighborhood that I live in because the cable lines that would support it were not yet run. For a service provider to provide broadband, it costs them about $400 in just getting the truck out there and doing the installation. WiMax would eliminate that, because with WiMax, the ISP would be able to broadcast the broadband capabilities and eliminate the last mile of cable to the consumer's door. This should radically lower the cost of the service by creating far more competitive options.

Intel wants to be one of the first companies to get WiMax-based products to market. The company has announced plans to start production of chips that can be used in WiMax equipment during the second half of next year. With service provider trials set to begin next year, Intel expects WiMax products to be commercially available in 2005. Unfortunately, it may not be until 2006 that those chips will be available for notebooks. But who knows, it might be sooner. When that happens folks you will see a revolution in how we use the Internet. There are very few things I can guarantee, but this is one that I am confident of.

Until then for those of us who travel, we might want to consider the Best Western hotel chain. I highly commend them for their innovative approach. By September 1 of this year they will offer FREE high-speed Internet in all 2,300 of its hotels in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. As many of you know I do a lot of traveling, and one of the biggest challenges I face is finding a decent Internet connection. It is pure pleasure when I stumble on to a high-speed connection in my travels. It makes the trip so much easier as my online presence is so significant I rapidly fall behind when I am restricted to dial-up access. So you might see me at Best Western after September.

InfoWorld January 23, 2004

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