On Thursday, I claimed that this year’s AWS auction was “big news” because it promises, within a few years time, the potential for multi-megabit mobile services at an attractive price point. I mentioned that several large carriers had gained 10MHz or 20MHz blocks of spectrum representing 2 – 5 GHz-MPops each. The only bad news was that it would likely take years for these carriers to clear the spectrum and start building the networks to launch meaningful services.
Therefore, my #1 big news story for 2006 is that such a network is already being built!
In August, Sprint (NYSE: S) (obvious disclosure: Sprint is my employer) announced that it was building a nationwide WiMax network using its spectrum in the 2.5GHz BRS band. The network will be operational in the first markets by year end 2007 with full commercial launch in 2008 and will have 100M Pops covered by year end 2008.
How big of an impact can this new network have? Sprint typically has several times as much BRS spectrum in each of its markets as the 10-20MHz the AWS bidders won, and Sprint’s total nationwide BRS footprint is also a multiple of the GHz-MPops spectrum holdings gained by any of the AWS winners. Sprint has had this spectrum for years and has already been working to clear it.
Telecom consultant Derek Kerton put it this way in a recent InfoWorld article, “”The Sprint announcement is the coolest and wildest and most risky gambit we’ve seen in the wireless industry in quite some time. They said,’We have an asset that nobody else has, and if we’re successful, we’ll have a sustainable advantage that nobody can match for years to come.”
Some have estimated that WiMax costs as little as one-tenth the cost to deliver of current 3G technologies, and the chipsets are expected to be close in cost to the WiFi chipsets that are now being built into a wide array of consumer electronics products. One of the biggest supporters of WiMax is Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Intel participated with Sprint in the August announcement, promising to promote the integration of WiMax into many products.
And that’s what makes this story so exciting.
Sprint’s WiMax announcement isn’t about just another wireless telecom network. It’s about unleashing the Mobility Revolution. It’s about building a nationwide network that’s fast enough to support virtually any application, that has enough spectrum to support broad market adoption, and that’s cost effective enough to build into virtually every product that today has a microprocessor built in.
Why should your PC be tied to a fixed DSL modem when WiMax will be mobile and will deliver more bandwidth? Why should your iPod be tethered to your PC when WiMax will be mobile and will be as fast as your USB cable? Why should your car have a DVD player when WiMax can stream videos and provide an infinite virtual library of mobile video choices? Why should your backpack carry ten books, when your eBook will likely have the bandwidth to access the entire Library of Congress over a WiMax connection?
Add on to the incredible power of WiMax price-performance the mobility benefits of contextual relevance, and suddenly the way we interact with the world around us will radically change. What we see, what we hear, what we read, and what we do will all become dramatically more relevant because our mobile devices will know where we are, who we’re with, what’s on our calendar, what the weather is like, how the traffic is, and perhaps our heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, and who knows what else we will choose to give our mobile devices access to.
Welcome to the revolution. Power Up!