Several companies are launching a non-profit group to promote IEEE’s new standard 802.16. I haven’t had time to catch myself up with this new standard, or its potential to democratize telecommunications, but from intial reading it looks promising. From the original story:
The standard — which the IEEE modified in January — is a wireless MAN technology that will connect 802.11 hot-spots to the Internet and provide a wireless extension to cable and DSL for last mile broadband access. 802.16 provides up to 31 miles of linear service area range and allows users connectivity without a direct line of sight to a base station. The technology also provides shared data rates up to 70Mbps, which, according to WiMax, is enough bandwidth to simultaneously support more than 60 businesses with T1-type connectivity and hundreds of homes. Many insiders argue that WiMax could pose a real threat to 3G and other wide area cellular data technologies. They claim that WiMax-powered hot spots could cheaply offer wireless broadband access to citywide areas, bringing Wi-Fi closer to cellular network levels of ubiquity.
[Update – 3/27/12 – to my knowledge any and all technologies capable of long-range wireless transmission have been squelched by big business/big government collusion. The last thing incumbents want is a free and unlicensed long-range wireless internet they don’t control. As of this writing, WiMax is the exclusive domain of large incumbent wireless providers, charging a fortune for their oligopolized access.]