The LA Times reports that wireless vendors are rushing into the Gulf region to fill a communications void left by the destruction of landlines. The article poses the question, should wireless now be considered a core part of the communications infrastructure?
"Why not build the next-generation phone system now?" asked Mohammad S. Shakouri, an executive at wireless gear maker Alvarion Inc. and an official in the trade group WiMax Forum.
Shakouri and other industry experts contend that the devastation of Hurricane Katrina offers a chance to build the sort of modern network that phone and cable companies have promised for years. Such a network — whether wireless or fiber-optic — could deliver movies or medical records at speeds hundreds of times faster than current Internet connections.
WiFi - and one day Wimax - connections can be set up very quickly, compared to physical wires, which is a huge advantage right now. From a policy point of view, should emergency personnel and other government employees, have access to wireless networks?
SkyTel Corp., a division of long-distance carrier MCI Inc., opened a wireless site Thursday at the Lamar Dixon trade center outside Baton Rouge, La., where state and federal workers process New Orleans evacuees. "Government people were all smiles and just elated that they had Internet service again," said SkyTel's president, Bruce Deer.
He said he expected to have a Wi-Fi mesh system — a network with numerous antennas, or nodes, to reroute traffic quickly — running by Monday in downtown New Orleans at the Louis Armstrong International Airport and in the Biloxi-Gulfport area. Such a system would give rescue workers and residents a constant connection to the outside world.
"At some point, from a strategic vision, it would be an objective to have the city and the Gulf Coast entirely covered," Deer said. "But we're going to do a handful of cities first."
As noted earlier, Intel is setting up a Wimax facility in Texas today, with the FCC clearing the appropriate spectrum.