BT sees DIY WiMax in 18 months

With Intel's Rosedale chip now out, the UK's incumbent telco predicts that it will soon be offering self-installation WiMax kit

BT could be offering self-installation kits for WiMax to businesses and home users with 18 months, the telco claimed on Tuesday.

Speaking at the UK launch of Intel's Rosedale WiMax chip, BT Retail's Chet Patel said that the company was looking to mimic the services already available on Wi-Fi and duplicate them for WiMax.

"For fixed broadband, they [self-installation kits] took 2 to 3 years", said Patel, a general manager for the telco. "Today is the start of it for WiMax. It will be a year to two year until the equipment and networks are available. We're hoping it will be 18 months until plug and play is available".

The launch of self-installation ADSL kits in January 2002 helped to drive the take-up of broadband in the UK, as users no longer had to pay for an engineer to visit their premises to install the service.

DIY WiMax could soon be a reality in Tokyo, where communications operator Yozan plans to roll out 600 WiMax base stations, which will be compatible with routers that users can apparently install themselves.

Intel's Rosedale chip, otherwise known as the Intel Pro/Wireless 5116 broadband interface device, is based on the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard. WiMax provides data links at distances of up to 30 miles at a maximum speed of 70Mbps.

If WiMax lives up to its promise, it could solve the dilemma of delivering high-speed Internet connections in areas where the cost of running suitable cables to homes and offices is prohibitively expensive.

Some pre-certified WiMax equipment is already available, but Patel believes the launch of Intel's chip should help to lower the cost of WiMax kit. "The announcement of Rosedale means we have more suppliers and vendors. There will also be lower costs coming through," Patel predicted.

Scott Richardson, general manager of Intel's Broadband Wireless Group, said he thought WiMax modems would fall in price from $500 (£262) to $200 or lower over the next few years. "Our view is we can get this below $200," he said.

At $200, WiMax modems would still be a much more expensive than ADSL, or even 3G datacards. However, they could make sense for those who need a very fast Internet connection, or who can't get other forms of broadband.

Richardson added that the WiMax Forum had begun testing WiMax equipment at its laboratory in Malaga, Spain.

"The WiMax Forum has opened labs for certification, and we're on the clock," said Richardson.

Intel and BT were speaking at a WiMax even at London Olympia.

ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden contributed to this report