With several new WiMax products being released, the standard appears to be moving out of the lab. The WiMax Forum expects its first certified products to be available by the end of 2005, and some vendors have already moved into hype mode.
Should IT departments care? There's no simple answer to that. For most organizations, WiMax won't have much of an impact until 2007 at the earliest. The first WiMax-certified products to hit the street will be based on the IEEE 802.16d specification, which is designed to provide a broadband alternative to DSL and cable modems by defining a standard for multipoint fixed wireless. The primary markets for 802.16d will be U.S. rural areas and developing countries that lack a wired network infrastructure. If your organization has offices in such regions, you may want to consider WiMax in the near term.
For most other organizations, these initial WiMax rollouts are more significant as a potential stepping stone to mobile WiMax based on the emerging 802.16e standard. This technology will provide a viable alternative to 3G and metro-Wi-Fi, designed with wide area packet data services in mind.
Intel is a key to the success of WiMax. If Intel follows through on its promise to integrate WiMax into future notebook designs, WiMax-802.16e could be a major force by the end of the decade.