WiMax and the end of TV as we knew it


A TV aerial on the roof is something most of us have grown up with. For holiday homes, flats or when on holiday rabbits ears created loads of frustration when they detuned one station as they gave you access to another, but they did mean that you could easily have TV in temporary situations from the batch to the hospital ward. VHF and then UHF aerials are still on most roofs in site, but that is going to become a thing of the past.

The first step is that VHF TV which has been the most common frequency range around the world is going to be switched off as governments in many countries reallocate those frequencies to WiMAX. This will be happening next year in many parts of the US a week or so after the Super Bowl.

Downunder in New Zealand we continue to lag some of the new advances and the VHF frequencies will be available to the TV stations until 2015. It will be interesting to see whether they are still needed for that long given that Satellite TV in the form of Freeview and Sky are already used by 55% percent of the population.

How can they do that? Don’t we need free to air TV? We aren’t necessarily losing it. In New Zealand the free to air TV stations are moving to Freeview, which is pretty much satellite TV with less channels and the only cost is the set top box and the satellite dish. This overcomes most of the issues about poor reception and providing reception to remote areas. But of course it bodes the end of little portable TV’s, but then you can now watch Sky TV on your phone with 8 channels for $2.50 a week, so maybe it is just a change of medium.

So what’s so special about WiMax? Nothing really except that it provides much geater range (up to 50 km for fixed stations and 5-15 for mobile) than the traditional 802.11 wireless networks, can povide much greater speed and when networks are built you can use it in your car. This sounds crazy but it’s really just a follow on from the systems used in large warehouses and buildings first created by Symbol, which pioneered many of the features still used today including frequency shifting for security and handover from one access point to the next as people moved around a building complex. In fact it is not only coming head on in potential competition to mobile cellular but telecommunications networks such as Sprint and Nortel are racing to get frequencies ad become the preferred supplier of 4G networks.

According to Computerworld’s Juha Saarinen, Telco’s in New Zealand are ‘squatting’ on some of the frequencies to prevent 3rd parties to spoil their fun in the 3G networks as they roll out new technologies to increase the speed of the cellular mobile network which is much easier to control and to derive plenty of ARPU (telco’s main measure of success Average Revenue Per User). If WiMax offers higher uploandand download speeds and efficient handover when required, then many people in urban areas might be less interested in WCDMA?

What could they be afraid of? Free access, and they should be afraid. Nottingham Trent University is trialling a network which will give free access to everyone in the city. There are free WiFi hotspots all over Europe, 154 free sites just in the Netherlands. Then there are free Mesh Networks, but that’s yet another story.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

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