The Wall Street Journal gets it right in an editorial today, saying that Sprint’s announcement that it plans to invest $3 billion to deploy a nationwide high-speed wireless WiMax network by 2008 is another blow to proponents of Internet neutrality regulation who claim that the broadband industry is not competitive. Hooray for Sprint and the WSJ for pointing out “that out in the real world” competition grows despite the rhetoric in Washington. However, the same editorial gets it wrong when it reports: “WiMax, meanwhile, operates in unlicensed spectrum, meaning Sprint doesn’t have to shell out money in auctions to deploy the technology. WiMax is like a wireless home network or a hot-spot in a coffee-shop, but it works over much longer distances, allowing greater coverage and a wider variety of uses.”
WiMax can be deployed over unlicensed spectrum, but that is not what Sprint is doing. Sprint plans to “put the wireless broadband network together across its 2.5GHz spectrum holdings,” according to The Register and other sources. As I’ve noted before, unlicensed spectrum is great for short-range applications but can’t viably sustain large networks with any serious quality of service.