Let's timewarp to 2012. I am in a small foreign town somewhere out in the countryside. I want to check my eMails and browse the net a bit. What kind of wireless access will I find in that place five years from now? 3G? Hopefully. Wifi? Well could also be, but at what price? Or even WiMAX? Why not with Intel pushing the technology and promising to get chipsets out the door soon which can do both Wifi and Wimax (Rosedale 2?). Let's stay with WiMAX for a second. How will my experience look like? I can imagine several scenarios:
The 3G-like scenario: I open my notebook and I detect a local WiMAX network. Unfortunately, just like most 3G networks today, access is restricted to users with a valid SIM card. No other way to access the network. Too bad for me, as I can't use the network and too bad for the network operator as he is missing out on potential revenue.
The Hotspot-like scenario: Again, I open my notebook and detect a local WiMAX network. Local users have a SIM card just like with 3G and access is seamless. However,the network is clever and sees that I am a roamer without a SIM and permanent subscription. Thus, it allows me restricted access and guides me to a web page where I can buy some volume or time credit. Prices are moderate and I am only billed for the time or volume I really use. Excellent. Maybe the network is even clever enough to detect my device whenever I log on again afterwards. Instead of having to type in my credentials again, I am just shown a page which welcomes me and tells me that network access for the prices as agreed last time has been granted again without further ado.
But maybe 3G operators have learnt their lesson in the meantime and are now offering affordable roaming prices to access the Internet. No need for the WiMAX network then. I wonder if the WiMAX competition has helped in this change of mind or if new EU regulation gave the gentle push!?
The Smartphone Scenario: So will my smartphone in 5 years from now support 3G with fallback to GPRS/EDGE for the really remote parts of this world, Wifi for home, and WiMAX (because 3G operators still won't allow me to roam abroad and connect to the Internet at a reasonable price)?
I think we won't see a several network technology everywhere world by 2012 so I hope WiMAX networks will be as open and reasonably priced as possible and devices to have enough wireless technologies built in to allow true roaming worldwide.
As bizare as it sounds but I think only a healty competition of different wireless technologies and mindsets will ensure the best possible network coverage for each technology.
Other Ideas? Anyone?