There is a growing concern that public Wi-Fi might not be the best investment, especially with WiMAX around the corner. Regardless, some cities and large public areas are still planning on using existing Wi-Fi technology:
“But to Norm Bogen, director of networking research at In-Stat, suggesting that public Wi-Fi networks are a waste of time and money because WiMAX is around the corner is a bit of a stretch.
"There is still a lot to be done in WiMAX," he said. "One of the reasons that-Wi-Fi mesh and Wi-Fi hotspots make sense is that there are literally hundreds of millions of devices today that are imbedded with this technology."
David Robinson, vice-president of business implementations for Rogers Communications, counters that over the long haul, WiMAX is simply the better technology for outdoor use, so there is little point in municipalities pursuing Wi-Fi.”
The cost of doing both types of networks on a large scale is going to be expensive, but it’d seem that the nearly 30 mile range offered by some WiMAX systems could potentially make repairs much less painful/expensive. The downside would be that an outage would very likely also increase the amount of users effected during an equipment failure. Of course, in cities and other areas where line-of-sight is not possible or very practical, the range of WiMAX would be reduced, which might make it a bit less attractive in those situatons.
The major upside to Wi-Fi has to be the sheer volume of electronics currently able to operate on 802.1a/b/g, and of course products supporting current and future ‘n’ specs. It could certainly take time to migrate such a large consumer base over to a new standard such as WiMAX, but it certainly would seem to make a lot of sense.