No matter where you live, it never seems like the latest and greatest technology actually ever hits your neck of the woods before the rest of the modern world has had a chance to get sick of it. Well chalk one up for this technology junkie because Portland, Oregon officially has WiMAX!
For those of you who aren’t familiar, WiMAX is in very simple terms an extremely fast Internet connection alternative to other wire-based services such as Cable, DSL and Verizon FioS Service and wireless services provided at hotspots like what Starbucks offers through AT&T. You can expect speeds of up 6 mbps at home and 4 mbps on mobile accounts. Home plans start at $20 a month with mobile plans starting at $30 a month. Very competitive in price and stated speed to other offerings.
WiMAX achieves these stellar speeds by connecting subscribers over a WiMAX modem. For those who think less is more, most mobile users for instance, WiMAX chips are already starting to show up in new laptops such as the Asus Eee PC. I would suspect that many manufacturers will be watching closely how widely accepted WiMAX is in the Portland area to gauge whether or not the new chips are worth considering for new hardware.
One very positive note is the WiMAX technology is much more robust than Wi-Fi and provides wireless signals that stretch for miles rather than the typical few dozen feet. This is accomplished through the use of federally licensed radio spectrum. This ups the ante on technological advances and quality of service, but it also ups the ante financially for Clearwire, the company behind WiMAX.
Not only is the federally licensed radio spectrum expensive, Clearwire must come into the Portland area and make a big splash rather quickly. It has to gain a significant subscriber base to bring in much needed capital to offset rollout costs. Accomplishing this in the midst of an economic downtime, not to mention stiff competition from other already entrenched providers could prove to be a daunting task.
The day Clearwire officially launched WiMAX in Portland, I was ready to sign up. One problem: Macs aren’t supported. Sweet mother! I decided to go to Plan B.
I’d already been considering a Nokia N810 Internet Tablet to play with. I figured I’d just buy the WiMAX enabled version. New problem: Everyone was out of them. However I found someone wanting to sell one on Craigslist. I’m Golden! New problem came up: Clearwire was saying it wasn’t compatible with Portland’s WiMAX service.
I started searching around and found that Nokia, that same day, had pulled the Nokia N810 WiMAX version from production. Not only that, they were asking retailers to return unsold units (I don’t think anyone had any to return) to Nokia. An interesting development.
After all that, I think I’m just going to sit on the sidelines of this latest and greatest event and see how things go. If some compelling device comes down the pipe or Clearwire decides to support Mac users before it goes belly up, maybe I’ll pony up and try the mobile service.
All in all, my big chance to actually be in on one of the latest, greatest and coolest things has met a very disappointing end……for now.