WiMax is suffering from 'growing pains': Intel

Despite the ongoing questions over the viability of WiMax, Intel's GM of mobility believes that the long range wireless standard is just going through the same growing pains as Wi-Fi.

Despite the ongoing questions over the viability of WiMax, Intel's GM of mobility believes that the long range wireless standard is just going through the same growing pains as Wi-Fi.

"I remember scepticism when we were talking about Wi-Fi four years ago — who needs it and why — it's the same with many other technologies that we and others have done. It's very much a way of life," Intel's Dadi Perlmutter said.

However, according to the Intel exec, the scepticism will pass once WiMax has been given a chance to show what it can do.

"It's about building momentum — there are ups and downs ... until we have one successful commercial instalment this scepticism will continue," Perlmutter said today at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai.

"I hope that will be in the next year," he added.

The "successful commercial instalment" of WiMax is not now likely to take place in Australia, after Communications Minister Stephen Conroy cancelled a contract the Howard government had struck with OPEL to build an AU$1 billion WiMax network for rural users.

Perlmutter said he hopes that the US may yet prove to be the required showcase. US operator Sprint, which in 2006 announced plans to roll out WiMax across the country. The rollout has been not been entirely smooth: the operator ditched its CEO ostensibly over concerns about the project's cost and recently severed a roaming agreement with fellow WiMax provider Clearwire, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from Intel's venture capital arm, as well as revealing this week the deployment will not hit its initial April deadline for launch.

"We have been working with them debugging software and the components. We're both spending huge amounts of energy to make it happen," Perlmutter said.

Sprint this week added new devices to its WiMax line up, including Nokia's first WiMax device, and Samsung's Q1 Ultra as well as a PC card.

However, Perlmutter said he doesn't see WiMax replicating the same level of success as embedded Wi-Fi in laptops and other devices. "It's not practical," he concluded.

Jo Best travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Intel.

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