Clearly, WiMAX and Wi-Fi are complementary technologies and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The widely available Wi-Fi technology used in hotspots in hotels, restaurants, airports and even larger Wi-Fi zones in some cities will continue to grow for many years. The recent flurry of municipal Wi-Fi mesh networks has only served to cement the technology into the wireless equation. Wi-Fi is not going away any time soon.
As the WiMAX standard grows into its first highs scale deployment with Clearwire in 2009 and continues to gain acceptance and drive cost reductions, new chipsets that incorporate the ability to function across multiple platforms will become more common in general with the MAN portion of this network technology slowly being converted to the more robust WiMAX systems, as the business cases for hotspot venues merit. Basically, this means that WiMAX users in a few years will be able to not only access Wi-Fi hotspots at a café, but could also have mobile citywide WiMAX access as well, along with access to other existing cellular technologies.
Multiple network capability in a single device is gaining traction and should be the norm in only a few years. Once again, this points towards a complementary aspect to the two technologies. True mobile access users in many cases will not require the level of bandwidth that they may need when in a fixed location. The two technologies will fulfill differing needs for consumers.
However, other LAN technology standards such as Bluetooth, UHF Whitespace frequencies, Ultrawideband and the 802.11n specification that offer value in shorter range hotspot networks will all grow and necessitate chipsets and laptop radios that will eventually be able to seamlessly cross these shorter range data networks as well as cellular networks and WiMAX citywide networks. The WiMAX standard is a major part of the very bright vision of the broadband wireless future that flexibility like this promises.
Though leaders in the industry often cite the potential for true software defined radio systems, wherein a users's handset, laptop or other devices essentially scan for the best connection for the location and spectrum available. The industry is slowly moving in this direction, however, expect the full development of this type of seamless technology to be a few years away. Even moderate incremental improvements in this direction could afford consumers benefits that are essentially impossible with wireline technologies.