Wi-Fi Aha

19 March 2004

Yesterday was one of those days when you have ”aha” moments that overlap. Usually, the light bulb comes on due to some outside stimulus and the Wall Street Journal got the ball rolling early yesterday. Glenn Fleishman wrote it up.

There were a couple of articles in the journal. First, was the one about low take rates among the for-pay hot spots. That was pretty obvious and expected. Second, was the article right below that one in the Wall Street Journal. It covered the story of Verizon’s EV-DO technology. It wasn’t the technology discussion that caught my eye. It was the application of it.

For the first time, I began to really grasp the differences between stationary, mobile and traveling users of wi-fi. It’s one thing to equip an office (stationary) with wi-fi so that employees have access to the network in lunchrooms, conference rooms and patios. It’s another thing to blanket a campus or town with WiMax so that subscribers to that (W)ISP can use wi-fi in lieu of cable modems or DSL lines in homes or offices and still roam the town (mobile) and have access.

Things really get fuzzy when a resident of that WiMax-enabled town travels. What is the source of the wi-fi signal in a distant city. It’s unlikely the traveler’s home town (W)ISP has a cloud over the distant city he visits. This is painfully obvious, but it also explains the difficulty in knowing which service or services to subscribe to.

I’m a big proponent of the WiMax cloud covering a city and providing an alternative to DSL or cable at 80% of the price. Will any provider have the technical and financial strength to put WiMax clouds over the NFL cities and offer a mobile (in the city) and a traveler’s subscription plan to those clouds?

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