Intel announces mobile WiMax chip

The company launches its much-awaited Rosedale II mobile WiMax chip, a crucial step in the mobile data race — and war of words — against super-3G

Intel's Rosedale II mobile WiMax chip was announced on Monday, which the company hopes will help further popularise the high-speed mobile technology.

The chip will see commercial trials in Europe by the end of this year, according to Chris Beardsmore, Intel's market development manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"Rosedale II is our first silicon that supports [mobile Wimax]… which gives us a migration story from [fixed Wimax] networks being deployed today," Beardsmore told ZDNet UK on Friday.

While fixed WiMax networks are planned for some areas of the UK, mobile WiMax has lagged behind in development. Mobile WiMax promises to bring high-speed, long-range wireless connectivity to laptops and handheld devices and is seen as rival to HSDPA or Super 3G, which is being pushed by many of the mobile operators such as Orange and T-Mobile.

Intel's Beardsmore claimed Rosedale I — used in fixed WiMax devices — had allowed manufacturers to bring their costs down, but Rosedale II would further extend the market for Intel's WiMax offerings.

"What we're seeing with Rosedale II is, not only have the vendors who bought Rosedale I said they'll buy it, but we've also seen people like Alcatel enter the market," he said.

This news comes hot on the heels of Qualcomm's announcement that it had successfully tested HSUPA, a Super 3G technology that Qualcomm Europe's president, Andrew Gilbert, implied could steal the market from mobile WiMax.

"It's good that HSxPA technologies are progressing," Beardsmore told ZDNet UK on Friday, "[But] if you look at where they are in terms of bandwidth and cost per bit, we believe WiMax has a significant advantage in both those areas, and also in terms of quality of service and reliability".

Beardsmore also hit back at Qualcomm's intellectual property rights dominance in the HSxPA market, saying: "One of the advantages with WiMax is that the intellectual property rights are spread fairly evenly across the technology, so no one company has a controlling interest in royalties, so that reduces the costs significantly."

Turning to the current debate raging over technology neutrality in key spectrums, Beardsmore suggested that mobile WiMax was more spectrally efficient than HSxPA and argued that observers should "let the market decide which is the best technology for providing [mobile data services]".
Praising the "industry and ecosystem support" behind mobile WiMax, he said the first mobile WiMax products on the market would probably be datacards for laptops, followed by "integration into the Centrino platform… probably at the back end of '07 [or the] beginning of '08".

However, he warned that spectrum issues would have to be sorted out by then, saying: "We need to intersect to the point where there are actually networks to run those devices on."

Beardsmore claimed that Intel already had 10 confirmed customers for Rosedale II, with production due to begin "later this year".

Samsung is already testing mobile WiMax-ready handsets, with a view to launching them in the first half of next year, but Beardsmore predicted that laptops based on the technology would probably beat them to market due to issues of power and form factor.

In an interview with ZDNet UK, Intel's European development manager, Chris Beardsmore, discussed his hopes that the new WiMax chip will push the broadband wireless technology into the same realm as Wi-Fi.