Om Malik is out breaking the news that the mobile WiMax (802.16e) standard has been "approved,"
which actually means a lot less than you might think. For those who haven't been playing the home game to keep up, there are a few different version of WiMax. The first is "fixed," meaning that you'd have to attach a stationary box to the side of your house or building to use it. The second version, which is getting all kinds of hype is "mobile" -- which is what most people seem to think WiMax is all about. That is, you'll be able to have a card or a chip in your computer that will let you access WiMax signals on the go... maybe. Despite press (and interested party
) hype, no WiMax exists yet. There are companies who want to offer WiMax someday who claim their existing, proprietary solutions are "pre-WiMax," but that's just a meaningless label. It's like saying my house is a "pre-mansion" or my car is a "pre-flying car." Sure, I'd love to get there some day, but we're not there yet. Anyway, the IEEE standard for 802.16d ("fixed WiMax") was approved about a year and a half ago... and yet there's still no equipment. After the standard, you have certification testing which was delayed and delayed until it finally started earlier this year. The hope is that some certified fixed
WiMax equipment might hit the market some time next year, but it's a long way from being particularly common. So, now that the mobile WiMax standard
has been approved, don't think you'll be seeing any actual mobile WiMax for years to come. Companies first need to make chips and equipment to meet the standard (which might not be as easy as they'd lead you to believe). Then, you have to go through the plugfest/certification process, which, if the "fixed" certification process is any indication, will take quite some time.
In other words, while this is a good milestone, we're still talking at least 2008 before you're likely to see anything that can realistically be called mobile WiMax -- and even then it will likely be limited. Will that stop the hype? Hell no! Mobile broadband player Navini wins the award for the first to try to capitalize on this announcement by claiming they "lead" the mobile WiMax space. Navini, of course, wasn't a WiMax supporter until last year when they switched camps, but they're still offering their non-standard, proprietary wireless broadband and claiming it's "pre-WiMax," which somehow makes them a "leader." However, read the language in the press release, and you'll see they hedge each claim: "802.16e-like capabilities," "16e-type experience," and "WiMAX-like service."