WiMax and BitTorrent

Bob Cringely writes in the aftermath of Intel’s announcement that it has begun shipping its first WiMax wireless networking chips to OEM manufacturers.

WiMax, if you don’t already know, is the IEEE 802.16 wireless networking standard that has people excited because it will support high data rates over long distances, sometimes up to 30 miles. Think of WiMax as long-range WiFi. From a logistical standpoint, WiMax beats the heck out of WiFi because you can plop an access point into the middle of town, feed it with a DS3, and have the whole town broadband-ready in a few days. That’s the dream, and I am sure it will be eventually realized…WiMax will provide broadband competition in a way that WiFi never could. While WiFi was always at best a broadband extension, WiMax can be a broadband alternative to DSL and cable modems. This third player will lead to more competition and lower prices. That’s why it is good.

BitTorrent…is sucking up 30 to 40 percent of all Internet bandwidth though most Internet users (not you — those other people) have never heard of it. BitTorrent is an Open Source peer-to-peer file-sharing application that is popular for distributing huge video files because it cleverly uses the assistance of your client computer to help redistribute to other downloaders those parts of the file that you have already received.

The powers that be — ISP’s, movie studios, etc. — hate BitTorrent. The ISPs hate it because of all that bandwidth sucking and the movie studios hate it because they think Bit Torrent is being used to steal their property.

Now let’s look forward two to three years. Broadband will be pervasive by then and in nearly every city, users will have the choice of DSL, cable, WiMax, and possibly Power Line Internet service. Average speeds may be slightly higher, average bills will be slightly lower, and the market will be perfectly poised for video-on-demand (more properly download-on-demand) to replace much of broadcast and cable television as we presently know it. And when that happens, when the movie studios have finally realized that they can cut out the networks and the cable companies and sell or rent directly to you and me for less money but more profit, the way they’ll do that is by embracing BitTorrent.

My prediction, then, is that competition from WiMax and other new broadband providers will force ISPs to be more open, that movie studios and others will realize BitTorrent can be an ideal distribution medium, and that ISPs — by localizing most Bit Torrent traffic — can make customers happy and save money, too.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.