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Nationwide Sprint WiMax Network Idea Revived

Cable companies interested in backing it

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Deep-pocketed cable companies have a newfound interest in helping Sprint and occasional partner Clearwire launch a high-speed wireless network based on the WiMax standard.

Listen carefully to Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and you can hear The Fear. More on that in a few paragraphs.

Big money may be lining up behind WiMax and a network rollout across the country to support it. Sprint and Clearwire fumbled around with this for months, like a teen couple on prom night in the back of a Honda Fit. As in uncomfortably.

However, the Wall Street Journal says Comcast and Time Warner discovered a newfound interest in backing WiMax. Comcast could kick in up to a billion dollars, while Time Warner would scrape $500 million together.

Since phone companies started competing with cable to offer television, it seems the cable companies want to fight back. Sprint needs to solidify its business, as it has fallen behind Verizon and AT&T in subscribers. The timing seems perfect to give WiMax a kick in the rear and get it moving.

Intel and Google received mentions as supporters of WiMax. GigaOM reports Intel could be in for a billion, while Google’s contribution would be in the hundreds of millions. Another cable operator, Bright House Networks, could put up $100-$200 million.

Now we can get back to this Fear thing we mentioned earlier. WiMax offers a blisteringly fast way of delivering wireless broadband, and being able to do so even to rural areas where cable companies turn up their noses at servicing.

Yesterday we mentioned Google’s rumblings about wireless connectivity in the white spaces existing in the 700MHz spectrum. Conceivably, Google and its Wireless Innovation Alliance pals could deliver what cable wants to do with WiMax.

What if Google gets to wireless high-speed access via white spaces first, and offers it at a price point that would likely undercut what Sprint and its new friends would charge for WiMax? Hello commoditization of wireless access on Google’s Android platform, goodbye mega-monthly charges from the cable-backed WiMax option.

If that scenario entered the WiMax discussion, the newfound sense of urgency could propel WiMax to a faster rollout. Google should profit there as well, as Sprint tapped Google last July to be the provider of the customer portal on the WiMax service.

Nationwide Sprint WiMax Network Idea Revived
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