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September 25, 2007

WiMax World: On the hunt for applications

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 10:57 AM

CHICAGO -- This is my second WiMax World. Last year, the conference was celebrating the fact that a big-time carrier, Sprint Nextel, had chosen its technology to deploy for its new wireless broadband network.

This year, I'm trying to get a sense of what the buzz is all about.

And although it's super early, I can already feel that the honeymoon period has subsided somewhat, and there are a lot of nuts and bults conversations going on about how they are going to make this all work.

The two main questions I'm hearing are:

-- How will the carriers make money?
-- And what will be the "killer" applications that will drive adoption of the technology?

There are many other issues, too, but I find the second question the most difficult one to find answers for.

I'll probably write a few blogs on this topic, but there were already a couple potential answers shared during this morning's sessions.

Atish Gude, the senior vice president of Sprint Nextel's mobile broadband operations called Xohm, said his company will figure it out later.

"I think it's about the right business model, and it's about having a network that can handle tremendous amounts of Internet time at a low cost," he said. "People will find uses for taking it with them and application developers will come up with great ideas."

To be fair, he later followed up with a slightly more clarified statement: "The first step ought to be taking what they use on the Internet and making it mobile, and after that there can be a lot of models that could be even better...It's not about technology, it's an experience. What do people get when people take their content with them -- and I'm not just talking about your Yahoo or Google content, but your own information from your media center PC at home. It's about accessing that on an anywhere basis -- that's the experience that Xohm is really meant to be."

Richard Lowe, a president at Nortel offered a personal example of how he would use it.

He said it would start at home, where he'd receive an early phone call from a co-worker right as he is leaving the house. He'd transfer it to his iPhone, so he could conduct a video conference call. On the way out of the house, he passes the refridgerator, where he would receive an updated shopping list. Once he gets into the car, the car would automatically pull the address of where he is going and give him turn-by-turn directions. Once he parks at a meter, the car automatically pays the fee, and then sends the charge up to his Quicken account, which would make the deduction.

He said: "4G is more than access, applications and mobility." The term he was keen on using to describe this was "hyperconnectivity."

"It doesn't equal mobility," he said. "It's about a lifestyle that exists out there."

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Tricia Duryee
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