Reading the tech news in South Africa, you get the impression that WiMax is going to very shortly solve all of the country’s broadband issues. Articles like this one give the impression that WiMax will shortly be available in every major city in South Africa. Municipal WiMax enthusiasts argue that this is “no business case for WiFi”

And today, Mike Jensen pointed out to me that in Europe, Ericsson’s Chief Marketing Officer has predicted the demise of WiFi hotspots because of the growth of mobile broadband. It is worth reading the Slashdot comments on this article for the dripping irony that the article provoked.

One cannot help but wonder why everyone is so keen to see the demise of WiFi. Is there a whiff of desperation in the air? While the wireless vendors have been squabbling over the WiMax standard and telecom companies have been pricing themselves out of the 3G market, WiFi has quietly gotten to thirty times its original bandwidth strength while dropping so low in price as to be almost a giveaway. At the same time, the Open Source community has been developing software for cheap WiFi devices that allow them to offer connectivity previously only available in devices costing thousands if not 10s of thousands of dollars? The telecom industry thrives on expensive equipment and service contracts. Perhaps WiFi is the emperor’s new clothes of connectivity.

Certainly Bill Gates seems to get it. In a recent submission to the U.S. communications regulator, he says:

“We’re hopeful that that [spectrum] will be made available so that Wi-Fi can explode in terms of its usage, even out into some of these less dense areas (of the United States) where distance has been a big problem for Wi-Fi,”

Obviously this is not an industry in which he has an entrenched interest. Just as well. For more background reading on WiFi versus Wimax, here are some links worth reading. Judge for yourself.

Wifi or Wimax (or both)?
comments from Evert Bopp in his Wimaxxed blog
17 Oct 07

WiMAX vs. WiFi
comments from Tom Evslin at CircleID
20 Feb 08

WiMax versus WiFi
comments by David Jarvis in MyBroadband article
25 Oct 07

The Truth About WiMax
Robert Berger quoted in Bill St. Arnaud’s blog
11 Oct 06

Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data