I’m going to paraphrase Andy Abramson, because his analysis, although thorough, is also darn long. Andy has combined two of the big stories of the last week — the rumoured Skype killer under development by a consortium of carriers, and the Clearwire / Sprint Wimax announcement — and concluded that it’s really the latter who have the opportunity (in conjunction with their cable partners) to build a strong competitor to Skype. Moreover, with this next gen WiMax network, they might also be able to drive a nail through the hearts of the incumbents.
Hrrrmmm. I guess I’m in the Ken Camp camp on this one. It’s too damn late. Expecting these folks to really get it together and figure out how to do this is … a stretch. There’ll be be kosher pork at the grocery before something this unlikely happens.
Besides, to borrow from Andy, this is a me-also play, not a me different. WiMax is fast (max 70 Mb/s), but not a lot faster than HSPA (42 Mb/s down, 11.5 Mb/s up). Because it’s symmetrical, WiMax is well suited to backbone applications, but really doesn’t confer a lot of benefit on the end point.
So video calling? Sure. But you can do the same on HSPA. 500kb/s required — not 11.5 Mb/s. And carriers like Rogers are already doing it.
No, to really really change the game would require a leap of imagination that I don’t think Clearwire / Sprint possesses. WiMax is symmetrical high speed. Imagine a pure peer sharing network instead. Something like the TerraNet system — Skype style p2p for communications, and bittorrent style p2p for content distribution. Mesh it so you don’t have to build out a massive infrastructure. Price the whole thing at a flat rate for access only, and sit back and watch the destruction of 125 years of legacy telecom.
That’s a me different. That’s a game changer. And it’s something that no carrier or content provider has the cojones to execute on.