Bigger, faster, better

I’ve been following the development of WiMAX for a long time, so news this week that Sprint has added Google to its team to make a WiMAX network available next year got my attention. Never underestimate Google, folks. I think this is a major development in the growth of 2‑way, wireless video communications, to say nothing of what it will mean for data.

Let’s back up a minute. WiMAX is a high speed wireless technology with 30 times the speed of any 3G wireless network and with a reach of over 30 miles. Think WiFi on steroids. Sprint and Nextel began building a network in 2004. That same year, Intel began producing computer chips with WiMAX built in. A lot of people raised a leery eyebrow at the time, because we don’t even have a valid 3G network in this country, so why build one that’s essentially fourth-generation?

Enter our wise old friend, Google. According to a report in Online Media Daily, Google and Sprint are building a portal specifically for this network.

In the as-yet unnamed portal, Sprint’s high-speed wireless service (which includes location detection) will be combined with Google Apps (including e‑mail, chat and calendaring), allowing consumers to browse the Web, buy products on-demand, and stream media on devices ranging from laptops and PDAs to phones and music players.

“This is a play to get Internet access in a very broadband way through a number of different devices,” said Peter Cannistra, director of Sprint’s mobile broadband business. “WiMAX is being built out for laptops and fixed computers, but we’re working to put the chips into wide array of consumer electronics.”

The report adds that Sprint will do a beta rollout of the service (including Google Apps) in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, DC by the end of this year, with more widespread service available by April of 2008.

I believe this will accelerate the disruption that’s dismantling the media ecosystem in the U.S. and place greater emphasis on mobile, direct marketing. The network contains “location detection,” for crying out loud. Talk about a gold mine for advertisers!

It’s also fascinating at a time when the news is filled with stories about the FCC’s auction of broadcast spectrum. WiMAX is a bird-in-the-hand for Sprint and now Google, so the only question is when will AT&T buy Sprint, so that the iPhone will work better?

(I know. I know. Shut up, Terry!)

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