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A modest look at WiMAX

The non-stop drumbeat of WiMAX hype is promising some pretty unreasonable things, at least unreasonable in the near future. From promises of a DSL connection you can bring anywhere to predictions of mobile broadband-enabled iPods and video cameras, WiMAX is setting its potential customers up for disappointment.

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So it's refreshing to see AT&T, among all of that clamoring, take a more subdued approach to WiMAX, one that can deliver on more reasonable expectations. AT&T quite innocuously revealed a Mobile WiMAX network it has been running under the radar in Nevada over the summer.

Although Sprint is focusing on 4G in big markets like Washington, D.C., and Chicago, AT&T has turned up the small, unassuming town — unless you take into account the high concentration of legal brothels like the Chicken Ranch in its vicinity — of Pahrump, Nev.

Instead of choosing a highly mobile solution promoted by the large vendors, it selected Soma Networks to deploy a commercial Mobile WiMAX network in a fixed environment, using static customer premises equipment modems. Basically, it's providing wireless DSL services to a town where it currently has no DSLAM.

AT&T's plans aren't even that ambitious — at least for now. It's even conducting trials of other broadband wireless technologies in Georgia and New Jersey. In fact, these Mobile WiMAX trials don't sound that much different from the Fixed WiMAX or proprietary-gear broadband wireless trials companies such as Alvarion, Aperto Networks and Motorola's Canopy have been rolling out for the last several years. The difference between those other trials and the isolated network in Nevada is that the Nevada network will eventually fit into the larger WiMAX ecosystem, supporting those new WiMAX applications as they become available.

It may not be as exciting Sprint's vision of 4G and personal broadband, but let's face it: That's a long-term vision. What we're going to be seeing from Mobile WiMAX in the near term is going to appear an awful lot like what AT&T is doing in Pahrump.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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