The WiMax quiet revolution: BT's on board

It's good for outdoors, it's good for indoors and it's not bad for 3G

It's good for outdoors, it's good for indoors and it's not bad for 3G

Intel's Mr WiMax – Scott Richardson, GM of the broadband wireless division – has been touting the possibilities of the long-range internet access technology beyond backhaul, claiming WiMax will make 100 per cent broadband more than just a fat-pipe dream.

With Intel releasing its first WiMax chipset, Rosedale, this week, Richardson claimed that the next one billion internet users will connect via wireless technologies such as WiMax. "There are places on the planet that may never actually see cable and DSL," he said.

While WiMax has been around for some years already, Richardson believes the drop in price and advent of 'plug and play' self-installation units will mean a boom for the technology, both for backhaul and in terms of supplying connectivity to homes and businesses.

"There are 100 trials in the pipeline for fixed WiMax," he said. "Most service providers are willing to explore the business model."

BT, for one, is already involved and has trialled WiMax in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and has received positive feedback from the experiment.

Chet Patel, GM of BT's wireless access group, said: "Eighteen months ago, it was all about getting broadband coverage to 100 per cent... We were scouring the globe to see what other operators were doing. The focus was on technology – which emerging technologies would work."

"We're very focused on the fixed [WiMax] and using the technology to infill any gaps."

Patel believes DIY WiMax units and WiMax for mobiles will be on the mainstream market sooner rather than later.

"We're very focused on the fixed access technology. It will be another year to two years before we get to the stage where the technology will be available. We're hoping in 18 months that a type of plug and play service will be more widely available."

However, while there has been murmuring from some quarters that the launch of Rosedale means as much for WiMax as the launch of Centrino did for Wi-Fi, Intel's Richardson was cautious on how far the technology has progressed.

"We're not there today – we’re in 1999 for WiMax," he said, adding that WiMax as the connectivity of choice for the majority is "some years out".

"Wherever you see Wi-Fi today, we envision you'll see WiMax tomorrow. Our vision is that Wi-Fi and WiMax go together from a technology point of view."

And, unlike some analysts, Richardson was coy about labelling WiMax a 3G killer. "We invest more on 3G silicon development than we do in WiMax right now," he said.