In theory, Wimax should have a huge audience -- Sprint says that it will reach 120 million people this year. The service is over ten times faster than 3G technologies. AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not offer the competing LTE products widely for over a year. It may be hard for consumers to imagine, but Wimax allows portable devices like smartphones and laptops to operate at speeds close to those provide by wired cable broadband.
Sprint faces several issues. The first is that the company has a poor reputation for customer service. That may be one of the reasons its subscriber count is frozen at under 50 million, while its two rivals continue to grow. Some consumers may simply wait for rivals to offer 4G because they do not want to do business with Sprint.
The ultimate test of Wimax is likely to be very simple: Will it work well? The towers that carry the 4G service will have to be positioned to make the service seamless. Wimax will not operate outside most large cities for now. And, some metropolitan regions will not have the service this year at all.
Wimax looks extremely impressive -- on paper.