Sprint and Google announced a partnership to develop WiMAX based applications for the upcoming Sprint WiMAX network. The goal is to marry applications from the Google Apps suite with devices that will utilize the Sprint WiMAX network. According to their joint press release, the partnership will allow customers “… to experience a new form of interactive communications, high speed Internet browsing, local and location-centric services, and multimedia services including music, video, TV and on-demand products.” Sprint hopes this is but one step in a series of high profile steps to build their WiMAX partner ecosystem.
This is revealing insight into the potential future of broadband and wireless. Telephony Online reported yesterday about a new study, The WiMAX Explosion!, from the Boschulte Schnee Group LLC, which purports that WiMAX could have serious implications on telecom and cable carriers. Its ability to offer a robust broadband service, in conjunction with portability provides a compelling competitive advantage. While WiMAX may not provide a true triple play competitive offering, it may not have to. If its promise of mobile/fixed broadband convergence holds true, it may be compelling enough to dissuade consumers from entertaining the triple play proposition in the first place. If WiMAX is able to supplant the broadband and voice component from the triple play bundle, who needs it. Google and Sprint’s announcement only adds ammunition to the argument that WiMAX could be a formidable force. The combination of broadband portability with interactive applications like the ones Google can provide will only increase WiMAX’s value proposition.
The implications may affect the cable industry the most. The likes of Verizon and AT&T have a strong wireless component, which they will certainly leverage to meet any WiMAX challenge. Maybe the same can be said for cable, through their Sprint partnership, Pivot Wireless. Sprint and their Pivot partners have not been entirely clear about where WiMAX fits with the future of Pivot. I suspect the recent partnership with Clearwire, muddies those waters even further. Clearwire has partnered with cable’s arch enemies, DirecTV and Dish Network. All of these partnerships are weaving quite a tangled web. It’s difficult to predict exactly who will have a seat at the WiMAX table. One thing is clear – the future of successful bundles will include a broadband wireless component. Both cable and telecom will need to ensure their bundling strategies evolve to include one for long term success. Sprint intends to be a player in this complicated future. Probably the real question for cable is, do they just buy Sprint to ensure their wireless future, or do they go it alone. Maybe the upcoming 700 Mhz auction will be more of a bonanza for the U.S. treasury than everyone predicts, as cable and Google fight to get in, and Verizon and AT&T try to keep everyone out.