As expected, Nokia announced the N810 WiMAX Edition yesterday at CTIA in Las Vegas, NV. The release of the N810 WiMAX is good but not for the reason most expect. First and foremost there are no changes from the N810 other than the addition of WiMAX and a color change, slate blue to black. While black looks sleek it is not an upgrade, although others may disagree.
WiMAX will be an improvement for wireless data access within limited areas, but the N810 WiMAX in not likely the device for most users. Assuming that the unit is picked up or will operate on (Sprint's) XOHM, Clearwire or other providers it will require a separate account and service from a current mobile service plan. Even if Sprint bundles the WiMAX into existing mobile plans the WiMAX service will only work for the N810, WiMAX data cards or base stations would need either own service plan.
WiMAX enabled devices are a step in the right direction, this particular step most users are better off skipping. The Nokia N810 WiMAX is good for consumers because it will drop the prices on the current N810 but is not a significant improvement to warrant its purchase.
Consider that WiMAX with a clear line of sight can potentially see near 802.11b (10Mbit/sec) speeds however, that speed and higher (802.11G, 54Mbit/sec) are available today over Wifi. Within a Wifi network the device does not come close to achieving or being able to handle these speeds. Without an external high gain antenna WiMAX is more likely to experience 2MBit/sec in a real world setting, comparable to 3.5G services, again available today in many areas. Granted the N810 is not equiped with WCDMA however, it is beyond simple to pair and tether through a wide variety of devices, something most potential consumers already own. The point is 3G services used through an existing mobile device, smartphone or not, will server users better in the long run at a low over all price point. Not only can the consumer use thier 3G servie on thier mobile device but also tether using a traditional laptop or even a desktop. Additionally as mobile technology improves, paired mobile device can be upgraded without replacing the N810. Yes the N810 WiMAX can also be tethered through a mobile device, which negates the need for WiMAX in the first place, again saving the consumer the additional expense. WiMAX is not likely to be offered in many locations 3G services are or will soon be offered. In those few locations where 3G isn't or won't be available WiMAX would obviously be better than GPRS, EDGE or nothing at all, but that is not going to be the case for the majority.
WiMAX has its place in the wireless data market but that place is not best served in the hands of users. WiMAX is a good alternative to cable or DSL especially in rural settings where these services are less appealing and expensive for providers to make available or providing additional competition to former. WiMAX, if available, is without a doubt a better alternative to satellite internet services due to their high latency issues. WiMAX, unlike 3G services, works best with a clear line of sight to the tower to reach peak performance. Line of sight to a tower is not feasible for a mobile devices. A mobile devices such as the N810 are meant to be used anywhere, anytime moreover many wireless data services WiMAX don’t do well when it comes to penetrating those concrete and metal structures.
Lastly and most importantly WiMAX enable devices such as the N810 WiMAX are good for consumers for the competition they bring to a market where existing wireless carriers have until now primarily competed amongst themselves, thereby driving down the cost and up the quality of service. I look forward to WiMAX devices such as this N810 WiMAX, not to buy rather to reap the benefits they bring to the market place.