The wireless broadband wars

3G wireless is starting to take off, so what's it mean for other broadband wireless technologies, such as WiFi and WiMax?

Eurotel Praha in the Czech Republic is the latest carrier to jump on the "3G" wireless bandwagon. The launch of the new service is Europe's first real "3G" deployment using the EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) standard. Verizon and Sprint have already poured billions of bucks into building these networks here in the U.S.

EV-DO was developed to provide broadband connection rates to cell phone and wireless users so they can send e-mail and surf the Web on mobile devices. Now that the technology is finally gaining steam, what's it mean for other wireless technologies such as WiFi (based on the 802.11 standards), or WiMax (based on 802.16 standards)? Will we see a technology cat fight?

Some experts say that these technologies don't really compete with each other. EV-DO is used primarily by mobile users. WiFi is used to connect PCs together within offices or homes. And WiMax provides a fixed wireless broadband pipe that connects buildings together in metro networks.

While vendors and analysts claim these technologies will co-exist and "play nice" with each other for a long time, I'm not so sure that there won't be some kind of shake out. Vendors are already developing products that will let users wander between WiFi hotspots. And it won't be too long before WiMax goes mobile.

Remember the VCR wars? I haven't seen a Betamax machine around lately, have you? Or what about Token Ring? I don't know of any company that is using Token Ring instead of Ethernet. Could EV-DO be the Betamax / Token Ring of wireless broadband? Only time will tell, I guess.

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Tech Culture
About the author

Marguerite Reardon has been a CNET News reporter since 2004, covering cell phone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate, as well as the ongoing consolidation of the phone companies. E-mail Maggie.

 

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