Thursday, October 09, 2008

WiMax could bridge digital divide in rural areas, especially those with wide open spaces

For rural residents hoping for high-speed Internet access, new WiMax technology may provide a quick and less expensive solution to the problem than wired connections. SOMA Networks executive Jonathan Jaeger answered questions from Brad Reed of Network World about how rural areas can get broadband without expensive infrastructure projects.

"In Montana, they don’t have the population densities necessary to justify putting in a fiber or a DSL deployment," said Jaeger. "The ideal is for a carrier is to have their customers connect to a single-point location, which is what WiMax can do. Broadband wireless changes the economics of the market because the coverage can be spread out over large areas using a single base station." WiMax requires users to have a base station to pick up the wireless signal, but does not require cable to be laid for connection. (Read more)

While WiMax may be thought of as shorthand for "maximum wireless," it actually stands for Wireless Interoperability Microwave Access. Because it uses very high frequencies, it works best in flat country where hills and trees don't obstruct signals.

UPDATE, Oct. 10: Rural Telephone Service Co. of Kansas said it has begun to use WiMax for small towns "that haven't been served by DSL, fiber, or other broadband technologies," reports W. David Gardner of InformationWeek. "Some rural WiMax deployments have been up and running for more than a year." For Gardner's October 2007 story on installations in Texas and California, click here.

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