There is no dispute from me that fiber is the end all, be all of communication technologies. Love to have some to my house, but it isn’t happening soon for me or many of my rural comrades, so wireless plays an important part.
There is one important thing to keep in mind about wireless. There is a quantum leap of capacity difference between MOBILE wireless and FIXED wireless, and too many fail to make the distinction.
Mobile wireless makes substantial sacrifices in speed and performance due to the imbalanced and highly variable return path from a small antenna. There will be constant capacity issues, network overloads and complaints about service coverage on mobile data platforms forever. It has been massively overpromised and 4g/WIMAX/LTE will never be able to deliver true, usable broadband to mobile devices outside of a lab environment or an underpopulated area with few users and a strong cell site nearby. The exponential increase in demand for data and laws of physics will make it impossible to keep up with the consumer demands and expectations. Every provider’s mobile data network will suck, simply because multimedia streaming and the demand for mobile data will massively overload them.
Fixed wireless sacrifices mobility in exchange for a strong return path and a higher signal to noise ratio, which allows for higher data modulation rates and increased capacity. It is also far cheaper to deploy than mobile, highly scalable and not dependent on ridiculously expensive licensed spectrum (although fixed wireless in licensed spectrum can do some pretty amazing things). The combination of ubiquitious unlicensed fixed wireless equipment and the lower hurdles to market entry has also created a petri dish of innovation in services, business models and non-government subsidized expansion of broadband to unserved and underserved areas. Wireless middle mile is also far underrated, as 100meg/300meg and even gigabit wireless backhauls are now available for relatively sane prices and do a wonderful job of completely bypassing all of the tariffs, artifically created intraLATA crossings, facility construction delays and contractual handcuffs. There are many of the old AT&T Long Lines towers in my service area, and we have backhaul facility on several of them. They may not carry as much traffic as fiber, but they carry a lot more traffic than T1s and copper, and that is the true alternative in many of these places for the near future. Wireless middle mile doesn’t have to carry the same amount of traffic that fiber does, it just has to carry ENOUGH traffic to be better than what is already in place.
The innovation in mobile wireless is focused on the billing systems and marketing campaigns. This weird phenomenon of zombies who are falling all over themselves to get the latest piece of icandy, pay out the nose on a two year contract for AT&T’s awful phone/data service and only get access to apps approved by “Big Brother Jobs” kind of blows my mind. AT&T have created this sense of mass delusion that bypasses the typical person’s common sense and turns them into i-d-10-ts. Do not confuse this mess with the fixed wireless industry. One delivers usable broadband. The other delivers empty promises.