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By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2004-07-09 Print this article Print

: Intels Future Strategy"> Its future strategy is based on wireless. I think it was Glenn Henry, former IBM Fellow and now head of Centaur, who remarked: "Its clear that the processor is the black hole, and that all silicon is going to fall into it at some point. Integration is inevitable, in our business. Those who can do a processor can control their system destiny, and those who dont will end up totally at the mercy of other people, who can shut them out of business right away." Thats always been Intels corporate song. Shut everybody else out of business. The business of the future is wireless. And Intels plan--and this is no secret--is to dedicate a corner of every piece of silicon it makes, to a soft transceiver. It will be CMOS, like everything else, and it will be completely soft. That is to say, software will define what frequency it broadcasts on, what frequency it receives on, and what protocol it observes.
Now, we get to the point. All you have to do is imagine Intel approaching the radio communications agency in Singapore, or India, or Croatia, or Australia or Sri Lanka or Japan or China or Sweden... and saying: "Well be shipping this new PC next month and we need spectrum approval. What frequency? Pretty nearly all of them, really. Is that OK with you?"
OK, now, lets think what Intel could do to change the response from "FOAD!" to "Lets talk, friend!" In a recent column, I suggested that there are a lot of people who are fed up with the worlds telcos, and want quicker roll-out of broadband. And (I pointed out) WiMax is being touted, mainly by Intel and its acolytes, as a solution to this, providing high speed broadband into unreachable areas. And finally, I suggested that this is probably misleading propaganda. Why would Intel want to be the friend of those who want to stick a pin into the rear of the worlds telcos? Because it would give Intel a powerful group of allies in its battle to change the way spectrum is allocated. WiMax can be made to work. It can be made to work exactly the way Intel says. The only thing is, to work like that, almost every regulatory authority in the world has to change the way it allocates spectrum. Not just which frequency goes to which application, but how broad the spectrum is. And it has to change into a way that looks more like the FCCs way. Will it work? Well...20 years ago, every European state had its own laws on modem approval. Intel launched a modem with built-in Flash ram, and sold this to each approval authority on the basis of being configured in Flash to meet their specific requirements. Then it said: "Oh, by the way, were selling the same device into the country next door. But it doesnt matter; if people from that part of the world visit you, they can re-configure." The European approval system collapsed. Intel pulled out of modems instantly and sold Flash to all the independent modem builders. This time, its a little different. But the key fact is that WiMax only works the way Intel says it can if WiMax gets high speed broad spectrum wireless allocations. Currently, most FCC equivalents around the world dont allow this. What do you bet on the way it will work in 2014? Click on the Talkback button at the top of this column and tell us what you think. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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