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Intel takes broadband to the WiMax

IDF: Intel sees WiMax as an integral part of the wireless future
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Intel predicted three years of solid development in wireless broadband on Tuesday as it showed the first samples of a chip for WiMax equipment.

At its developer conference, the Intel Developer Forum, the chipmaker announced that the part, code-named Rosedale, would be installed in a board called Intel's ProWireless 5116 Broadband Interface. The chip combines all of the functions needed to connect to a wireless broadband network, except the radio, which will come from third-party suppliers, including Texas Instruments and SMI. Intel is shipping sample parts to key customers, and the first products with the chip will become available next year.

Combining wired Ethernet, security and other interface functions, the Rosedale processor is designed to quickly integrate into equipment and reduce the time needed for certification.

"Rosedale is the first generation of the technology and will do last-mile fixed access to the home," said Scott Richardson, general manager of Intel's Broadband Wireless Group. "In 2006, we'll see notebook integration for portability and in 2007, handsets for mobility."

The focus of the integration is to drive costs for the equipment down, according to Robinson.

"Broadband wireless is plagued by a number of issues" including wireless spectrum limitations and indoor coverage problems, Robinson said. But the biggest challenge is the price of the products.

The aim is to lower pricing from around $350 for client equipment to under $200, Robinson said.

In time, Richardson said, prices for WiMax hardware would be the same as for Wi-Fi products. "We're sampling the chip with strategic partners," he said. "Interoperability and other tests will take place over the next six-to-nine months, with deployment starting later in 2005."

WiMax is radio technology that promises to deliver two-way Internet access at speeds of up to 75 megabits per second at long range. Its backers claim that WiMax can transmit data up to 30 miles between broadcast towers and can blanket areas more than a mile in radius with bandwidth that exceeds current DSL and cable broadband capabilities.

WiMax will spread around the globe on a mixture of frequencies, Richardson said, using a combination of licensed and unlicensed bands on 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz and 5GHz. "WiMax is viral, in that over time, more and more frequencies will be opened up," he said.

He predicted that WiMax would migrate to bands currently used for terrestrial television. "Nirvana for wireless is sub-1GHz, when the signal can go deep into buildings," he said. "Over the next three years in the US and elsewhere in the world, these frequencies will start to become available, and Intel is working on this with the regulators."

Intel has three business models for WiMax: fixed access, where it does the job of cable or DSL (digital subscriber line) broadband; portable use within in metro zones, akin to giant hot spots; and a fully mobile system with inter-cell hand-offs.

WiMax is complementary to existing services and access companies, Richardson said. Cable and DSL providers would sell access to the metro zones alongside their own fixed line products, and 3G telecommunications companies would use the mobile system to offload their data traffic while maintaining their own focus on voice. Although Rosedale had voice capabilities, this wasn't a primary intention of the standard, he said.

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