Intel favors WiMax over 3G for Centrino

The chipmaker plans to pick up the wireless pace later this year with an internal mobile WiMax card. Next year: WiMax plus Wi-Fi.
Written by David Flynn, Contributor
BEIJING--Intel has confirmed that it's pulled the plug on all plans to add 3G technology to its Centrino notebook platform. From now on, the chipmaker said, it's WiMax all the way.

At a media briefing prior to the opening of this week's Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, Mooly Eden, general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, decreed that the chipmaker is leaving third-generation (3G) wireless technology in the hand of vendors and will devote its future energies to developing and promoting the emerging WiMax technology.

"You're not going to get a 3G solution from Intel," Eden told ZDNet Australia. "There are 3G solutions from third parties, but if you look at 3G adoption, it's still a one-digit attach rate. We are going to focus on WiMax, which we believe will be a more pervasive solution, and we are trying to work with the ecosystem to accelerate it worldwide."

Mooly Eden Mooly Eden

Eden said the decision to halt development of the Intel-Nokia 3G module was "nothing to be proud of, but we took the risk, and at the end of the day, financially, it just didn't make sense."

3G was slated to be part of the fourth-generation Centrino platform, code-named Santa Rosa and due for release on May 9, using an integrated 3G HSDPA card, to be jointly developed by Intel and Nokia. In February, Intel announced it was abandoning the project because it didn't see a sufficient return on investment, though at the time, it didn't rule out eventual 3G integration.

Intel fell behind its original timetable, outlined at last year's spring IDF, to release a WiMax notebook card by the end of 2006 and to introduce an integrated WiMax module into Santa Rosa.

Now it plans to pick up the pace with the release later this year of an internal mobile WiMax card, code-named Dana Point, to be followed in 2008 with the Echo Peak combo card containing both WiMax and Wi-Fi.

Eden is optimistic that Intel's WiMax push will spur the wireless broadband technology, just as the shorter-range Wi-Fi technology and the Centrino platform came of age together.

"When we launched Centrino in 2003, the attach rate of Wi-Fi was 15 percent," he said. "Now the attach rate is more than 95 percent. In the U.S., by 2008, we are going to have more than 100 million people covered with WiMax."

David Flynn of ZDNet Australia is attending the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing as a guest of Intel.

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