Nokia and Intel partner on mobile WiMax

The mobile version of the broadband wireless standard could complement 3G, the companies claim

After a hot and cold relationship with WiMax in the past, Nokia has thrown its support behind the high-speed wireless technology.

The Finnish mobile giant announced on Friday that it is partnering with Intel to develop 802.16e -- which could potentially support high-speed wireless access over much longer distances than are possible with Wi-Fi today.

Nokia and Intel say they will work together on to make WiMax suitable for mobile phones and notebooks. They also plan to develop 'base station strategies' to help operators to roll out 802.16e networks, and to push the finalisation of the 802.16e standard.

"WiMax will be an important technology complementing 3G technologies. It will also create new opportunities for the consumer and enterprise markets," said Tero Ojanpera, Nokia's senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

Ojanpera told journalists on Friday that 802.11e could be better than 3G at handling data services, such as video downloads. This suggests that Nokia believes future mobile devices would support both wireless technologies.

Nokia's has had a turbulent approach to WiMax in the past. It was a founder member of the WiMax Forum, but quit in 2004 -- only to rejoin shortly after. It's thought that Nokia left because it believed WiMax would just be a fixed-line broadband technology.

"The industry was understandably slightly confused regarding the Finnish company's WiMax strategy, but this partnership with Intel demonstrates Nokia's willingness to integrate mobile WiMax solutions into its radio access technology portfolio," said Ovum analyst Julien Grivolas.

Chips for the fixed-line version of WiMax -- 802.16d -- are already available, and Intel expects to have 802.16e silicon available in 2006. These would be used in notebook computers, but Grivolas believes that Nokia may be planning to integrate WiMax into its handsets.

"Together with the integration of 802.16e chipsets into laptops, the integration of WiMax directly into handsets is a key driver for mobile WiMax adoption," he said.