Last week I posted an item about the desire of FCC chairman Kevin Martin to dedicate the new AWS-3 spectrum to be auctioned next year to free wireless broadband. Well it turns out that startup M2Z Networks wants to bid on that spectrum and has just such a free broadband business model. You can read a detailed account of the company's plans from USA Today, but I'll quickly hit the high points and speculate on road blocks.
For starters, I question the business model. I still remember when Netzero rolled its plan for free dial-up access. Comdex was still kicking at Netzero was among the up and comers that hosted the old lunches at Pieros back in the day. I don't know how many people still use the Netzero service today, but those that do pay for it.
Now perhaps an ad-supported service wouldn't be the problem today the way it was on a dial-up link. After all most every web page, including those on the Digital Home site, serves up ads already. Broadband speeds have mitigated the affect of ads on the net access experience. But the M2Z plan is to offer rates at the slow end of what a DSL connection might offer. And surely the M2Z ads will have to occupy part of what would be a browser window.
My bigger questions, however, center on the technology behind the business model. M2Z hasn't said much about how they will implement the network. They have said that the network wouldn't support a user traveling at highway speed. The network would basically supports a fixed client during network access, although a user could fire-up a device and access the network while at their favorite lunch counter. The fixed nature of the service, presumably will make it cheaper than alternatives such as those used by the cellular service providers.
I still think WiMax is a more likely choice when it comes to competing with cable or DSL -- a target M2Z has publicly identified. And Wi-Fi works pretty well in cafe-like settings. Seems like a tough combination of business and technical challenge. I look forward to learning about the technical details of the proposed network.