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The house that Andy built : WiMAX as a disruptive force?

These are interesting times for WiMAX. One might even say the moment of truth has arrived. Indeed, Nov. 4 is also decision day for WiMAX in the United States. If a high-powered Sprint Nextel Corp.-Clearwire Corp. union cannot launch WiMAX in America, what can?
It’s a tricky proposition, particularly in these erratic economic times, but not just for Sprint Nextel and Clearwire. Intel Corp., Google Inc., Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cumulatively have bet $3.2 billion on a national WiMAX rollout – a venture that still needs at least another $2 billion.
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to seal the deal on Sprint Nextel-Clearwire this Tuesday. Everything appears to have been carefully choreographed. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will address the Wireless Communications Association International conference in Silicon Valley next week, his first speech ever to the trade group. Martin should get a hero’s welcome. The WCA show should serve as a coming-out party for WiMAX and the new acting head of the association, Fred Campbell, a former Martin aide and ex-chief of the FCC’s wireless telecom bureau. Everything considered, the WCA convention has all the ingredients for a WiMAX lovefest.
Campbell is a sharp guy and appears to have the right stuff to make a good go of it at WCA. But he’ll face many of the inherent challenges – membership, revenue and trade-show attendance – confronted by his predecessor, Andrew Kreig, and by other industry associations suffering through the economic funk. From most indications, Kreig was shown the door in the quiet swelter of August in official Washington.
Kreig has since set up a consulting shop (Eagle View Capital Strategies) and become a research affiliate at the National Center for Technology and Law at George Mason University School of Law.
When things are going rough for organizations, they often opt for making big changes at the top. Sometimes it works, other times not.
It is important to appreciate that landmark regulatory changes creating the opportunity for the Sprint Nextel-Clearwire tie-up and a U.S. WiMAX market occurred on Kreig’s watch. WCA was a wireless cable association when Kreig took the helm in 1997, before wireless broadband was in vogue. FCC wireless broadband rulemakings were highly complex and controversial, but their outcomes now comprise the policy underpinnings of the WiMAX buzz.
The future of WCA likely will depend on whether WiMAX becomes a disruptive force or is relegated to being just another niche offering.

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