WiMAX World kicked off today in Chicago with all the usual fanfare. Initial impressions of the show are good. The halls seem to be filled with genuine enthusiasm and excitement, unlike other recent telecom shows I’ve attended. I sat in Ben Wolf’s, CEO of Clearwire, keynote presentation, and among the usual hype statements of a rosy WiMAX future, I found the cable partnership discussion especially interesting. Cable companies participating in the Clearwire venture include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Brighthouse Networks. Wolf described their cable partnerships as critical and sees them as fundamental to WiMAX’s success. “Clearly the intent [of our cable partnerships] is to take the cable broadband and entertainment experience outside the home,” said Wolf. “If we’re not able to deliver on that, we’ve missed a huge opportunity.” The possibilities are indeed interesting.
The competitive landscape may shift significantly if cable and Clearwire are able to execute on a strategy that allows cable companies to extend their broadband and entertainment portfolio beyond the home. From a competitive context, mobile broadband is cable’s Achilles heel. And while big telco competitors have a significant lead with wireless right now, cable’s experience in content could go a long way in closing the gap if they are able to converge it with a credible wireless experience. “WiMAX and Clearwire have the capacity to deliver compelling content services now,” says Wolf. Of course the proof is in the pudding. It’s easy to discuss these possibilities on the stage of tradeshow hall – it’s quite another to actually execute and deliver on this vision.