The cable industry didn’t invest over $1.5 billion in Clearwire for nothing. That 2008 investment is turning into 2009 momentum for cable broadband wireless services powered by WiMAX. The first out of the gate was Comcast, who launched their first High-Speed 2Go WiMAX service in Portland, Oregon last month. Atlanta soon followed, and Las Vegas is reported to be on deck. Now comes word that Time Warner Cable is prepping their first WiMAX launch for sometime ‘this fall,’ with Charlotte identified as their first market. The nation’s second largest cable company revealed these plans during their 2Q09 earnings conference call, citing plans to launch a total of four WiMAX markets by the end of the year.
In some regards, WiMAX is somewhat of a risk for these cable companies. WiMAX has its fair share of ‘haters.’ Many an obituary has already been written about it, despite its relative infancy. These cynics argue that WiMAX simply doesn’t have enough global carrier support to sustain it as a viable 4G technology. If they are right, than Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Brighthouse hitched their wagon to the wrong wireless horse.
If WiMAX fails, it could be truly disastrous for these cable companies, at least from a wireless point of view. It would be their second wireless failure (Pivot wireless being the first), and I doubt they could recover to launch a third wireless foray. They’d probably be a little ‘gun shy’ and consumers more than likely would write off cable as a viable wireless option. Is this possible ‘doomsday’ scenario what drove Cox down a different wireless path to 3G and eventually LTE? Of course, there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in this scenario. As for now, WiMAX has decent momentum and committed partners from the likes of Intel, Samsung, and Google. Not exactly a list of stealthy start-ups with limited cash reserves. Perhaps the WiMAX obituary is a bit premature – at least for the time being.