Look for 2010 to be big year for WiMAX

Look for 2010 to be big year for WiMAX

Sprint already counts about 100 utilities as customers who use its mobile networks for various purposes.  The telecom is currently negotiating with many of these customers about how they could benefit from using WiMAX, or 4G as it is commonly referred to.  Gustin added that his company has made bids on several smart grid projects that call for the use of the 4G network.

Sprint is also currently in discussions with GE, a manufacturer of WiMAX-based smart meters, and Grid-Net, a developer of smart grid supporting software built around WiMAX.

Gustin wouldn’t elaborate on any of the details about the upcoming WiMAX smart grid announcements but he did share what he considered to be the benefits for his company, utilities, and the developing smart grid: lower costs in the future.  WiMAX is an open standard and with major companies in addition to GE such as Intel and Motorola manufacturing WiMAX smart grid equipment costs should come down significantly in the future.  Currently, a WiMAX chip set costs about $36 but that cost is expected to drop to $12 within a year and possibly as low as $6 within another 6 months according to Grid-Net CEO Ray Bell.

Sprint is the biggest telecom backer of WiMAX in the United States and clearly would profit as the 4G network develops.  Over the last couple of years 4G has been launched in several cities.  Clearwire is only available in select locations including Chicago, Las Vegas, Portland, and a few cities in Texas.  Increased 4G presence has been slow as some industry players believe WiMAX will only have a minor role in the smart grid until there is a national WiMAX-based network.

WiMAX smart grid development could happen a lot more quickly elsewhere in the world.  Grid-Net announced last October that it would supply Australian utility SP AusNet with its software.  The Australian utility will use hardware from Motorola and a wireless spectrum from Unwired Australia in a project worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars.

American utilities are still aware of WiMAX.  CenterPoint, a Texas utility, was one of the first to test GE’s WiMAX smart meters.  Alvarion is supplying WiMAX equipment for a National Grid test where smart meters and automated distribution functions are connected to the utility’s back office systems.  San Diego Gas & Electric applied for stimulus funds last year for a project that would depend on WiMAX for 30 percent of the network.  Southern California Edison is also having a close look at how it could use WiMAX for part of its smart grid.

Gustin explained that the $4 billion in stimulus funds that the Department of Energy announced in October of 2009 has generated a lot of interest in WiMAX smart grid technology.  Big projects will be announced as the money reaches the utilities that have included WiMAX in their plans.

6391 Sprint Parkway
Overland Park KS 66251-4300

3525 E. Post Road, Ste 110
Las Vegas, NV 89120

General Electric
3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06828

340 Brannan St.
San Francisco, CA 94107

2200 Mission College Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95054

1303 E Algonquin Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60196

SP Ausnet
Level 31, 2 Southbank Boulevard
Southbank Victoria 3006

CenterPoint Energy, Inc.
P.O. Box 4567
Houston, Texas

Alvarion Ltd.
21a HaBarzel Street
P.O. Box 13139
Tel Aviv, Israel 69710

National Grid
25 Research Dr.
Westborough, MA 01582

San Diego Gas & Electric
P.O. Box 25111
Santa Ana, CA 92799-5111

Southern California Edison
P.O. Box 6400
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729  

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