CES 2009: Hooking up in Vegas

WiMAX makes an impact at CES (Erwin Boogert via Flickr)What has got me hot and bothered here at CES in Vegas hasn’t been any booth in particular.  It’s more something intangible – something in the air.  Literally.  I’m talking about WiMAX.

At Microsoft’s booth, I saw amazing media offerings like the polished IPTV of 2009.  Next to Microsoft’s section was Intel, showcasing the strength of WiMAX, pulling in over 11 Mbps to their laptops – which is much faster than my home cable connection has ever managed.  Both booths have their stories and their products but the real story is in the potential as the two meet.

At the Motorola booth, the message is more clear – they have Microsoft’s IPTV solution (and a handful of others) set up right next to their WiMAX display.  Talking with the presenter for the WiMAX products, I asked about the viability of a transition from ground connections to wireless via WiMAX, LTE, or any other 4G technology.  Initially, the presenter was skeptical, as broadcast TV sends HD signals at 18 Mbps.  The issue here is an issue of codecs though.  Cable operators largely broadcast via MPEG 2 signals, which are a very old compression technology.  Netflix HD streaming manages over as little as 5-7 Mbps, and actually has better picture quality to my eye, because it uses newer and more efficient codecs.  With these advances in mind, the idea of a transition of both Internet and TV frameworks from landlines to wireless isn’t far fetched.

The WiMAX at CES is being provided by Clearwire, and speaking with Scott Richardson, Clearwire’s Chief Strategy Officer, he highlights another advantage to WiMAX – it’s being built out with growth in mind.

Watch my interview with him here:

Clearwire’s recent Portland launch was designed to support up to 25% of Portland’s population, with room in the spectrum to grow out even further from there.  This is an area that some of the fiberoptic solutions have been facing difficulty with.  Laying fiberoptic wire to each individual home is a monumental task, and should a newer, better technology emerge, that process needs to be undertaken again.  With a wireless infrastructure providing online access, new technologies only face the burdens of deployment to centralized towers and support in client devices.

There is a race going on to support the demands being created by the new digital media solutions here at CES.  From cloud computing to IPTV, 2009 and onward are going to be bandwidth intensive years.  Here at CES, it looks like wireless technologies are going to win that race, with WiMAX seeing current deployment globally, and LTE on track for a Q4 2009 release by telecoms.  It’s quite sexy when one really thinks about it.  This technology will build the framework for the targeted messaging IPTV provides with the reach broadcast TV has had (even greater, as mobile TV will be right there with set tops).  I’m ready to hook up.