Does WiMAX Matter For Mobile Enterprises?

I feel as though, having raised the idea of WiMAX in my research and some past postings on this blog, it would make sense to dedicate a post entirely to where WiMAX fits as a tool and as a force of change for mobile operations professionals.

The mobile enterprise network passes through three phases on its journey from isolated mobile network access to true, ubiquitous mobility. These phases mirror the overall evolution of the enterprise mobility market:

  • Phase 1.0:
    Islands of connectivity — Convenience deployments of the WLAN in collaborative areas; perhaps sporadic or departmental rollouts of WiFi provide limited connectivity, and supply is quickly outstripped by user demand.
  • Phase 2.0: Pervasive wireless — In this phase, enterprises have rolled out WiFi (802.11a/b/g networks) and have blanketed the corporate campus with WiFi, perhaps augmenting some segments of the user population with EVDO or GPRS cellular data cards for access “on the road.”
  • Phase 3.0: Ubiquitous mobile networks — With the reach and bandwidth of 802.11n networks deployed in the enterprise, municipal networks blurring the line between the edge of the corporate campus, and WiMAX networks, in turn, covering more of the suburban and rural areas while coexisting in the same client-side chipset, mobile connectivity is not a convenience, it’s an expectation.

Where are we now? I’d say advanced enterprises are moving toward 2.0 but aren’t there yet. See Intel’s Jones Farm deployment in Oregon as an example. Most enterprises, I would wager, are just now moving out of the 1.0 stage; some kicking and screaming.

As for WiMAX, I’d argue that, to date, no other technology has emerged as a credible challenger for the years ahead or matches the technology’s potential cost advantages over current cellular data offerings (for carrier deployment and user spend), reach, and potential throughput on the client side. As a result, WiMAX seems the likely scion for current cellular data networks — though at least two to three years out for general availability. This bright future paints WiMAX as the enabling technology for Phase 3.0 of the mobile enterprise network’s evolution.

What do you think? Will WiMAX, gaining steam in the 2009 -2010 timeframe, specifically change the nature of the carriers and networks your business relies on? Or, conversely, will an abundance of a high-bandwidth, widely deployed networks like .11n muni WiFi or another carrier-based offering be the game changer?

By Chris Silva. 

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