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WiMAX to Benefit Broadband Disenfranchised

According to Kagan Research, U.S. households that have lacked broadband availability comprise a last frontier in telecom, but are now being corralled. Terrestrial wireless WiMAX network installations are scheduled to start next year.

"Because of the costs to deploy DSL and cable modem service, the big carriers have mostly focused on densely populated areas, but that's overlooking the 5,000 towns with fewer than 70,000 people in the U.S.," says Kelley Dunne, CEO of Digital Bridge Communications, which provides WiMAX broadband services and support services to other WiMAX providers. It's estimated that over 14 million U.S. households lack affordable broadband connectivity and, Dunne adds, millions more are poorly served.

Some of those towns may be nominally serviced by some broadband service. But usually coverage is patchy, prices high and capabilities limited, says Dunne, who apparently witnessed these issues while he was an executive with Verizon. WiMAX standardization is lowering equipment costs and first-wave deployments overseas prove WiMAX service is viable, notes Dunne.

Other WiMAX advantages are equipment that consumers can quickly self-install -- "in some cases under two minutes," says Dunne -- and robust service. However, WiMAX faces challenges as well. The WiMAX Forum consortium set 3.5 GHz as a 'standard frequency' globally -- well everywhere, except here in the U.S. where it will be a non-standard frequency.

That frequency band is not available because it's occupied by U.S. government services. As a wireless medium, WiMAX also won't deliver fast speeds unless large amounts of spectrum are available. Dunne's company is helping providers deliver downloads at 1.5, 3 and 5 Mbps. That's comparable to DSL, but short of cable modems and fiber-optic networks, and won't support TV-like video quality.

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