Intel Corp. last week announced availability of its first WiMax product, lending its considerable clout to the nascent wireless protocol.
Previously code-named Rosedale, the Intel Pro/Wireless 5116 chip set is based on the 802.16-2004 standard for fixed broadband wireless connectivity—an alternative to cable and DSL. While fixed wireless service efforts from carriers have failed in the past, Intel officials said they expect this one to succeed because it is standards-based.
Intels marketing arm should help, too, according to industry observers, who said Intels publicity for its Centrino chip set last year helped propel the ubiquity of Wi-Fi. "The chip set may be successful if Intel applies the same kinds of pressure they applied to get Centrino adoption," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in San Jose, Calif. "Namely: money given to OEMs via marketing incentives, which help to offset costs."
Several hardware makers have announced plans for Rosedale, including Airspan Networks Inc., Alvarion Ltd. and Proxim Corp. Intel also has teamed up with several carriers on WiMax trials worldwide, including AT&T Corp., BT Group plc. and Qwest Communications International Inc.
Meanwhile, Wi-LAN Inc. and Fujitsu Ltd. last week introduced a WiMax system on a chip, which Wi-LAN plans to include in its Libra MX base stations by years end, according to officials at Wi-LAN in Calgary, Alberta. They are targeting developing countries where cable and DSL are not readily available.
Industry officials acknowledge that WiMax is not exactly around the corner. The WiMax Forum, which is the official WiMax certification body, is not expected to certify its first products until the end of the year. And, according to documents on its Web site, it is giving first certification priority to products that run in the 3.5GHz band, which is not licensed for use in the United States.
That said, WiMax hopefuls already are turning their attention to 802.16e, a mobile version of WiMax, sort of a miles-long-range version of Wi-Fi, which does not require the line of sight that 802.16-2004 requires. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has yet to ratify 802.16e, but Intel officials said they have tentative plans to include 802.16e chips in notebook computers by 2007.
Potential customers say 802.16e will be a welcome improvement to cellular and even Wi-Fi for high-bandwidth applications. "We have tried to do wireless video from a laptop to a video projector, but it hasnt given us satisfactory results so far," said Kevin Baradet, chief technology officer of the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "When WiMax is stable and out, Im planning on giving it a try for video."
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on mobile and wireless computing.