WiMax is starting to make an impact on how some Americans use wireless internet connections, but cost and compatibility issues have prompted some users to question whether WiMax is a good investment.
Wimax is currently offered in two US cities. Baltimore got the high-powered wireless internet service last September, provided by XOHM. The Clear WiMAX service brought WiMax to Portland, Oregon earlier this month.
Not surprisingly, companies with major investments in WiMax are gushing about the services.
"I could feel intrigue turn to buzz on the scene," enthused Intel Social Media Strategist Michael Brito in a CES-themed blog post.
"But buzz is not momentum unless you see progress. And progress is being made."
Intel has been singing WiMax's praises and attacking the competing LTE technology for some time.
Not all of the positive reviews are coming from vested interests. Monica Paolini of Senza Fili Consulting toured Portland's WiMax-covered areas and came back reasonably impressed.
"The performance... was consistently good, with throughput typically over 3Mbps in the downlink and between 350 and 400Kbps in the uplink."
However, she also found "a few areas without sufficient coverage... but this is to be expected in a new network still being optimized."
A Google Maps page shows the locations she visited.
Other people have complained about spotty WiMax coverage. An article in the Baltimore Business Journal quotes Jason Hardebeck, who "gets a full signal from his Phoenix home that sits on a hilltop", but can't get service in other important locations, such as Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
"I could see this being useful if it was $10 a month or less, but any more than that and it's not worth it to me," Hardebeck told the Journal. The service starts at $35 a month.
The monthly bill isn't the only investment. Unlike Wi-Fi, which comes built into every laptop, WiMax requires special hardware. In addition, there are compatibility issues.
In a comment to a What We Think blog post, Portland resident Craig complains about buying a Nokia N810 WiMax tablet, only to discover it doesn't work with Clear's service. "If anyone knows of anything different please reply to this before I send this back to Nokia," he pleaded.