Is the world losing faith in WiMax?

With the CEO of US mobile operator and WiMax cheerleader Sprint, Gary Forsee, now leaving his job, questions are being raised about whether confidence in WiMax can recover from such a body blow.

Poor Gary Forsee. The head of US mobile operator and WiMax cheerleader Sprint has been ousted from his position as CEO, with many industry watchers citing his multi-billion dollar bet on the long-range wireless broadband as the reason he ended up clearing the desk.

According to the telecoms whisperers, Sprint's investors were less than impressed at the company's performance, and the thought of spanking another couple of billion on rolling out WiMax coverage while the WiMax Forum still haven't put out the formal certification of the 802.16e standard got them sufficiently unhappy to request Forsee's departure.

While Sprint's people have said they are planning to press ahead with the deployment of WiMax regardless, questions remain over whether WiMax will receive the same backing now its chief proponent has left.

In the event that WiMax doesn't see the light of day with Sprint, it could be a major blow to confidence in the technology around the world.

Many of Australia's WiMax backers, Unwired among them, have countered detractors of the technology with the line "If WiMax is so bad, why is Sprint investing so much in rolling it out?".

It's a fair point, and one that will be open to criticism if Sprint decides to u-turn on its deployment. Unwired also seems to have been working on hobbling confidence in the standard, telling shareholders that there are significant risks involved in the technology in an effort to encourage them to sell their holding to Seven, which is seeking to take over the company.

Like any new standard, there are risks involved in deploying WiMax -- of course there are. But still these leaps of innovation are made in the face of rampant criticism, and sometimes they work, sometimes they do not.

If Sprint pulls out, we'll all be left wondering what might have been -- and so will the company's shareholders, who could well force the mobile operator to ditch one of the most fascinating technology schemes of the century.

In the event that Sprint does turn its back on WiMax, Australia will become one of the technology's leading test beds, thanks to the OPEL bush network. And that would be a shame.

Due to the fixed nature of the WiMax standard chosen by OPEL, capacity for innovation is limited -- it remains glorified backhaul.

If mobile WiMax gets going, the possibilities it presents are far more interesting. So for the sake of telecoms nerds around the world -- not to mention the users -- please, Sprint, stick to your guns.


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