Intel was the powerhouse that drove Wi-Fi towards ubiquity. Now it wants to do the same with WiMax, the long-range, high bandwidth technology that has been popularly described as "Wi-Fi on steroids".
Fixed WiMax is already starting to reach the market in a behind-the-scenes sort of way, but many have suggested that the technology will only truly take off in its mobile form, which has taken longer to develop.
That momentum around mobile WiMax will receive a much-needed boost from the announcement on Monday of Intel's Rosedale II chip, which the company hopes will soon be as standard in laptops and handheld devices as Wi-Fi is today.
But mobile WiMax faces significant challenges in the UK, particularly from fast-advancing 3G technologies and the mobile operators such as Vodafone and T-Mobile who have already invested heavily in them.
ZDNet UK spoke to Chris Beardsmore, Intel's marketing development manager for the EMEA region, about the road ahead for mobile WiMax.
Q: How big is the demand for mobile WiMax in the UK, especially with the rise of Super 3G technologies?
A: In terms of consumers and users, our sense generally is that the need for bandwidth never decreases, and they want mobile data — Wi-Fi set the benchmark for doing that.
HSDPA [Super 3G] is a great technology for giving people mobile data, and they are in a position to be able to deploy networks today and offer that. Possibly the issues they have are in terms of bandwidth, quality of service and cost per bit.
WiMax fits into a space where you need more bandwidth than you can get from HSDPA — we sit as a complementary technology there, between Wi-Fi and HSDPA. In terms of those people who are looking at it, we have people like Pipex, who own spectrum and have a data-business case, so it's fairly logical for them to move into that space.
The likes of companies such as BT, who have fixed assets but very limited mobility, are also looking to expand into the nomadic data market with some of the things they're doing, such as wireless cities [an initiative to create metropolitan "hot-zones" across the UK].
They are obviously very interested in WiMax as another piece of their plans. Whether Rosedale II intersects with their plans, I'm not certain at this point. Rosedale II might fit in with their DSL fill-in, for example where there's no good copper infrastructure — they've looked at WiMax as a DSL fill-in tech for the 2-3 percent of the population with no access to DSL broadband.
Did Rosedale I, Intel's fixed WiMax chip, live up to expectations in the market?
I would say so. We were very pleased with the uptake of Rosedale I. It allowed vendors to bring the costs of client devices down, and we're very pleased with that.
What we're seeing with Rosedale II is, not only have the vendors who bought Rosedale I said they'll buy it, we've also seen names such as Alcatel enter the market.
Tell us more about Rosedale II…
Rosedale II is our first silicon that supports 16e [mobile WiMax standard 802.16e). It's also backward-compatible with 16d [fixed WiMax standard 802.16d], which gives us a migration story from 16d networks being deployed today
We took the existing Rosedale I design and looked at what we would need to add to it to make it support 16e. We made some internal hardware changes...