Road test: Does WiMAX work in the real world?

Just a couple short years ago, many people were abuzz over metro Wi-Fi experiments in Philadelphia, Houston, and San Francisco, only to see those efforts largely collapse as slow speeds, expensive deployments, and economic tussles between carriers and municipalities resulted in low adoption. But waiting in the wings for several years has been the promise of WiMAX technology to deliver broadband connectivity wirelessly across entire cities with less equipment to deploy than metro Wi-Fi. After nearly two years of uncertainty, Sprint and its partner Clearwire are now starting to set up WiMAX networks in several cities.WiMAX promises users a wireless connection that rivals wired DSL or cable links in speed and reliability. Does it actually deliver on those claims? To find out, I tested the Clearwire Mobile High Speed Internet service for about a month in one of the first deployment areas: Reno, Nev. The results were mixed: The WiMAX service provided good connectivity and performance when I was working in a fixed location, whether at my home office or at a café. But I could not get it to work when I was on the move, such as when being driven in a car.

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