During the buildup to the Minneapolis wireless build-out, future wireless technologies were often mentioned and WiMAX was among them—the idea being that Minneapolis was positioning itself to take advantage of new developments. Details like the fact that Sprint owns the WiMAX spectrum in Minneapolis, were not mentioned.
Sprint just announced that it is gearing up to rollout a WiMAX network in a dozen or so cities in 2008. Minneapolis is in the mix. Motorola will build our network.
WiMAX is last-mile internet access technology, just like Wi-Fi. If you have one in a well-served area, you probably won't need the other. Sprint plans on integrating it's cellphone offerings with broadband internet services.
WiMAX is new though and Wi-Fi is well-embedded in our computing ecosystem with most new laptops ready to connect. WiMAX does has the advantage of a protected spectrum which means much less interference as compared to Wi-Fi. So WiMAX should be much more reliable than Wi-Fi, at least right now.
From the standpoint that competition is good, this is good news. Sprint conceivably will provide another way for me to get to the Internet really fast (WiMAX is generally considered higher speed than Wi-Fi).
But Minneapolis may not be able to take advantage of the competition as it is locked into a contract (10-years, I think) with USI Wireless for all sorts of services. This could see the City paying above market rates, especially since WiMAX is better suited for the type of public service mobile applications that Minneapolis has described as saving residents lots of money.
It will probably be 2009 before we have any definite answers here. Stay tuned.
GigaOM on Sprint’s Lil WiMAX Details.