Why no WiMAX in the UK?

Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse had some really interesting things to say about WiMAX and 4G and the future of mobile at CTIA http://www.bmob.co.uk/2010/03/24/the-future-is-4g/ and what he said just made me really annoyed. But I wasn’t annoyed because what he said was right or wrong, it made me annoyed because a lot of the early WiMAX development work was done in the UK, and now it looks like we’ll be the last place in the World to actually get it.

And why won’t we be getting it? The answer is the UK telecoms industry mobile and incumbents has basically taken its eye of the ball for the last ten years. Instead of innovating, and being insightful, they’ve instead stuck their heads in the sand.

The mobile telecomms companies in the UK seem to do nothing but moan about how may gigabits of data we use, now they’ve given us 3G – or attempted to, the chances of getting a decent 3G signal outside of the big cities are still shockingly poor – and how iPhone users are putting a strain on their ill-equipped backbone network. How did they not see that coming? even a four-year old could have worked that one out, you give people access to a fast pipe and they’ll use it, isn’t that obvious?  Quite frankly I’m amazed they’re not using more?

While the old school telcos boast about how much fibre they’re putting in to the ground. Cables in the ground is so 19th century!! Why spend so much money putting in fast fibre when the last 100 yards is still going to be delivered on slow copper?

Back in 2000 when I edited Business 2.0. I went to see a few of the new businesses who were developing 4G equipment, and my over riding memory of those trips was,  not a single one of the businesses I saw was producing kit for the UK. It was all going abroad, and mostly to South East Asia. When I asked why they all said it was because nobody in the UK telecoms industry wanted to know about it.

The industry needs a kick up the arse, and the Government and the opposition needs to stop pushing cheap broadband for all gimmicks. The wake up call for the future is the HTC Evo and Sprint. Forget the pathetic scrabble for the iPhone, and forget digging holes in the ground and start building WiMAX now.

Watch the videos of the HTC Evo 4G on engadget and see the future and then move to the US because it’s the only way you’re going to get 4G without building your own network. In fact if you’re a VC then invest in WiMAX, and build your own network. It won’t cost you much and it’ll be years before the dullcos get around to competing, by which point you’ll be quids in.