Intel Looks to 2008 for WiMax Push

Intel and partners SprintNextel and Clearwire will begin testing WiMax later in 2007 and into next year.

Intel has set its sights on 2008 as the year its WiMax investment becomes a reality.

Along with its two carrier partners, SprintNextel and Clearwire, the Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker will begin controlled tests of the WiMax networks and technology later in the third quarter, with field tests to follow late this year and into 2008.

Intel plans to reveal additional details of incorporating WiMax technology into mobile devices and notebooks at various shows in the coming months, including its own Developer Forum in September, Ron Peck, director of wireless content with Intels WiMAX Group, told eWEEK in an interview.

WiMax is a broadband technology based on the IEEE 802.16 standard and has the potential to transmit data over significant distances through a number of different means, such as point-to-point links. For a number of years, Intel has been one of the most vocal supporters and biggest investors in the technology.

On the silicon level, Intel plans to add both WiMax and Wi-Fi support with its next mobile platform, called "Montevina," which is scheduled to roll out next year as part of the companys transformation to a 45-nanometer manufacturing process, Peck said.

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In the past several months, Intel executives have been vocal about the companys desire to push further into new mobile markets and making WiMax just as popular and ubiquitous as Wi-Fi. It also plans to make the technology a viable alternative to 3G cellular networks.

Peck said he expects WiMax will be first available in laptops and PC cards in 2008, when Intel refreshes its mobile platform. Later in 2008 and into 2009, he sees the technology spreading to other mobile devices, including ultramobile notebooks and MIDs (mobile Internet devices).

"I am very bullish that there will be a number of mobile devices that will come into the market in 2008," Peck said, adding that he also expected the technology to become more affordable.

In looking at the market, Peck said consumers and small business will be the first to pick up on WiMax technology, with enterprises to follow once the devices and the technology undergo more rigorous testing and review.

In July, Sprint and Clearwire agreed to a new 20-year partnership that will help map out the networks for their WiMax plans. Peck said Intel was supportive of the agreement and that it will help move the plans for WiMax forward.

In that agreement, Sprint is looking to make networks available to about 185 million people, which will include about 75 percent of the people located in the 50 largest markets. Clearwire will focus on areas covering about 115 million people.

Jim McGregor, a research director at the InStat Group, said the widespread adoption and use of WiMax technology could prove to be "a game changing event" for the communications industry because the broadband technology not only has the ability to transmit data over long distances, but voice data as well.

By being an early supporter of WiMax, Intel is looking to increase its own presence in the communications industry and fulfill its desire to push into emerging markets, where the company has already demonstrated a variation on this technology, McGregor said.

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The fact that Intel is gearing up for a big WiMax push in 2008 is not a surprise to McGregor.

"Intel has always been very realistic about its roadmap when it comes to WiMax," McGregor said. "They have always been very conservative about the roadmap, although they have over-hyped the technology a bit. They [Intel] have been very consistent about the timing and it seems that we will start to see some significant growth by 2009 and 2010."

McGregor agreed that consumers will likely drive the market first, but he said that large enterprises would likely start considering the technology soon.

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