The growing ubiquity of Wi-Fi in hotspots and consumer devices is enough to even sway Alvarion, perhaps the staunchest proponent of WiMAX, which has introduced dual- mode products to integrate the QoS of wide area WiMAX network with Wi-Fi’s end user functionality.

“Our vision for WiMAX – especially as it goes mobile – is that it does for the Internet what cell phones did for voice. you’re going to be always on, always connected, so ubiquitous broadband wireless is going to enable that and we see WiMAX as the one to do that,” said Carlton O’Neal.

It’s just not going to happen overnight and there is a wireless opportunity there now with Wi-Fi. Alvarion’s converged products include a Wi-Fi access point solution for hot zone applications so service providers now deploying WiMAX can expand their networks to end users with Wi-Fi hotspot coverage.

It’s the type of coverage that O’Neal believes will one day be provided by WiMAX, but for now, “We have people that are demanding this converged solution. We do have some trials with it (but) nothing that we’ve publicly announced.”

Just publicly announcing Wi-Fi support is newsworthy for a company that’s been in the vanguard of WiMAX zealotry. While Alvarion does have roots in the IEEE 802.11 process that led to Wi-Fi, it’s more recent activity has been to develop and promote WiMAX networks.

Before anyone thinks the company has gone completely off course, O’Neal emphasized that the new product solution is only an “interim” step. “It’s really all about using Wi-Fi to get to the end user because of the ubiquity of Wi-Fi end user devices,” he said, pointing to laptops, PDAs, smart phones and games. “To offer services straight to the end user you have to do it over Wi-Fi today; there are no WiMAX cards. They’re about to be commercial but there’s still a little bit of a learning curve there. the simplest application is providing the ability to extend our current networks off of Wi-Fi services.”