WiMax wait for Centrino 2 users outside US

Intel says it will launch its integrated WiMax module for the Centrino 2 soon, but for now, the platform will support only 2.5GHz deployments.

SINGAPORE--Users will be able to access U.S. WiMax networks with their Intel Centrino 2-equipped notebooks later this year, but they will have to wait for a later release date to access WiMax networks in other countries.

Intel unveiled its new Centrino 2 at a press event in Singapore Wednesday, noting the platform will support the 2.5GHz spectrum band for 802.16e WiMax by way of its combined Wi-Fi/WiMax module, which is expected to start shipping by the end of 2008.

However, users intending to access WiMax networks in other regions such as Asia, will have to wait before purchasing their devices.

Intel regional spokesperson, Nick Jacobs, confirmed with ZDNet Asia that the combined wireless broadband module, codenamed Echo Peak, will be sold in the United States to support the country's WiMax network.

Jacobs said Intel will announce support for other bands "as deployments of mobile WiMax increase" next year.

There are numerous operators in Asia operating outside the 2.5GHz band. Pakistan's Wateen Telecom has the current largest WiMax deployment in the world, operating at 3.5GHz.

On 2.3GHz, there are Singaporean Internet service provider (ISP) QMax, and Malaysian operators Bizsurf, Packet One Networks, Asiaspace Dotcom and Redtone-CNX Broadband.

QMax was part of Intel's event line-up today to promote WiMax.

According to Alex Tan, director of Qala Singapore, which owns QMax, the ISP has achieved to date, 70 percent coverage of the main harbor and coastal areas to the south of Singapore, as part of a wireless broadband project by the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore.

Tan said, so far, 350 maritime companies have signed up for the service since the pilot trial launched in March this year.

He added the ISP is in the process of upgrading its base station hardware from nomadic to mobile WiMax. A device on a nomadic WiMax system gets disconnected and reconnected as it moves out of range of one base station and moves to the next. Mobile WiMax allows for smooth handover from one base station to another, ensuring the user stays connected to the network.

QMax has plans to cover some 80 percent of the island by the end of 2009.