Rupert Goodwins' IDF Diary

Tuesday 23/08/2005 — Part IIIOur first WiMax dignitary is a vice-mayor of Chengdu in China, who faces the camera with determination. He speaks no English, and so the initial conversation is with a third party who hands over.

Tuesday 23/08/2005 — Part III

Our first WiMax dignitary is a vice-mayor of Chengdu in China, who faces the camera with determination. He speaks no English, and so the initial conversation is with a third party who hands over. There is a long pause. Vice-mayor blinks, slowly. He then launches into a speech in Chinese which goes on for quite a long time. And then some more, followed by more and topped off with extra helpings of more. The audience is at first quiet and receptive, then restless, then starts to giggle to itself at the sheer ludicrousness of what is happening. At length, Vice-Mayor reaches his conclusion, and stops. There is a long pause. "Thank y…", I think I hear someone say before a hidden translator is prodded with a stick somewhere on the loop and commences a word-perfect spiel of equal length. The gist of this is that Chengdu is a good place for efficient living: it is, however, no place for brevity.

And this was just the first of four. Next up is Captain van Moustache on a boat in Rotterdam. He seems a kindly fellow, but like the rest of us utterly at a loss to understand what is going on or why. He has good Dutch English and goes on agreeably about how WiMax will replace paperwork for the hard-working sailor, but he never really warms to his thesis. He goes on for some time, but perhaps his boat is approaching some unseen reef; his confusion and concern increases linearly until with a mutual sense of utter relief he is dismissed to the digital darkness.

Argentina now, and a school in San Miguel de Monte. Here at least it is daylight, and an attractive young couple are shown disporting themselves in the classroom to a backdrop of earnestly typing youngsters. There is a long pause while our new friends are made aware of the fact that they're on the big screen, followed by much talk of el Internet y el muy importante WiMax. There is some animated waving from the kids in the background, which I return.

"We said four corners of the Earth" said Malone to the operator of the global WiMAX experience. "Do they speak English in our last place?"

"Depends on your perspective," came the reply. "It's Canada." And there was a man relaxing under the mighty pines on some remote Northern island, who proved entirely up to the task of talking at length about… well, yes, you can probably guess.

The rest of the day was briefings, briefings, briefings — finishing with a quick tour of the Tech Showcase, the ground-floor science fair where all Intel's partners show off their goodies in booths. Most fun. Because the mobility keynote overran by quarter of an hour and nothing else was allowed to happen before it had finished, the journos are let into a show floor in a state of some unpreparedness. This is most enjoyable in the little cluster of ultrawideband booths, where the different bits of equipment are interfering with each other something chronic. The bit of the standard that copes with this isn't finished yet so it's a red-blooded contest for bandwidth; one stallholder is desperately trying to raise his technical expert on the phone while the next door neighbour is spouting wideband TV across his link. "I can get 400Mbps easy if he would just let me have some of the bloody spectrum," says my correspondent. "I'm down to 50 at the moment." The next door neighbour is unsurprisingly relaxed about this, but is less happy when I interpose my hand between his transmitter and his receiver and the throughput instantly drops to near-zero. "Yes, well, it's the antennas", he says.

Quite. I do wonder how UWB will cope when it's given to the waiting world.


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