A stated desire of regulators is to foster competition for broadband. They claim that many of their policies are created to achieve such a desired outcome. Sprint and Clearwire are exploiting this desire with regulators with their most recent regulatory filing. They are positioning WiMAX as the desired “third pipe” into the home – a broadband pipe that will compete with the other two dominant broadband pipes, DSL and cable modem. While still a concept, a wireless third pipe into the home is building momentum.
Whether it’s Sprint/Clearwire with WiMAX or Verizon/AT&T with LTE, wireless broadband technology is evolving quickly. Its ability to rival wireline broadband service is approaching – and quickly. I’ve heard the argument that wireless broadband will never really rival wireline broadband services, especially with FTTH gaining momentum. That’s certainly true. But I wonder if it misses the point. Wireless broadband won’t rival FTTH speeds, but it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is provide “enough.” When it does provide “enough,” a fair number of customers will see the same compelling convenience with wireless broadband that they saw with wireless voice. Those customers will cut the wireline broadband cord, in much the same way they cut the wireline voice cord. Will it be everyone? No. But will it be enough to create serious competitive implications. Absolutely.