In 2001, the IEEE published the initial 802.16d Wimax fixed broadband wireless technology standard hoping it would bridge the digital divide amongst the underserved world. Intel heavily backed Wimax and envisioned an interoperable technology standard supported by a consortium of chipset and system manufacturing companies that would eventually drive hardware price points down to levels capable of supporting global WiMax network deployments on a massive scale. In short, Intel envisioned the WiMax standard to bridge the digital divide just as WiFi had universally unwired local area networks.
However, WiMax was very slow to pickup momentum due to its challenging cost model. The starting infrastructure investment alone would require $100,000’s in capital expenses and this would not include costs associated to license expensive private frequency bands. Typically, only large carriers were in a position to build out this infrastructure and many times struggled to come up with business cases to justify the investment. Nevertheless, the WiMax movement was backed by billions of dollars and a close relationship strategy between hardware vendors and well-financed carriers. The proponents believed costs would eventually come down to drive ubiquitous WiMax deployments in the same fashion as the WiFi model. But, the costs would never decline enough and the vision of WiMax as the catalyst to solve the digital divide would never happen.
In sharp contrast to the disappointment of the WiMax initiative, Ubiquiti’s own AirMax platform, powering millions of subscriber deployments worldwide, was quickly succeeding in many places where WiMax had failed. But Ubiquiti did not have large financial backing, carrier relationships, and sales teams. Instead, we used a powerful R&D strategy to breakthrough traditional market inefficiencies, disrupt convention, and achieve tremendous sales “pull” from our organically grown grass roots community of entrepreneurial operators.
Specifically, our successful R&D strategy can be broken down to revolve around 4 platform design principles:
- Initial investment cost must be low enough to allow for anyone to deploy the solution
- The user experience must be intuitive enough to allow for anyone to operate the solution
- The performance of the solution must meet or exceed existing enterprise and carrier quality expectations for functionality, performance, and reliability
- Focus on making the solution cool — concentrate on aesthetics and features that promote end-user attachment and confidence
People often talk about the world of “machine-to-machine communications” and its growth potential looking ahead. We decided to apply our R&D strategy and disrupt it. The result is what we call “Machine Fidelity” or “mFi” for short. It’s one of the initiatives we have been working on for the past couple years at Ubiquiti and are excited to release today.