WiMax will be slow to take off

Despite recent attention, the wireless broadband technology, WiMax, is years away from wide use and will take root in Europe and Asia before spreading to U.S. shores, says a new report.

More than 7 million subscribers worldwide will get wireless broadband access from carriers selling WiMax services by the end of 2009, according to the report released last week by the research firm Parks Associates. Carriers will start with equipment using the fixed version of WiMax, which means the service will initially be available only to subscribers in homes and businesses.

WiMax promises two-way Internet access at several megabits per second over a range of several miles. Backers of the technology believe it can challenge DSL and cable broadband services because it offers similar speeds, but costs less to implement.

The up-and-coming technology is expected to be particularly useful at getting broadband service to remote areas or areas out of reach of conventional wired networks.

The report said companies selling WiMax products and services will find fertile ground in developing countries, where the need for voice and data services is hampered by poor wireline infrastructure.

The development of WiMax has recently pulled ahead of competing wireless broadband technologies. The standard for fixed WiMax — 802.16-2004 — was approved last month and is expected spur development and equipment sales. However, testing and certifying that gear will take time. High-volume shipments of those products are not expected until 2006.

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