Intel's Rosedale chip will provide the foundation for high-speed wireless services that can travel distances of several miles.
In the wireless world, faster is better. So is greater range. Intel on Monday began shipping in volume its first WiMax ships, which are designed to form the foundation of the next-generation version of Wi-Fi and provide businesses and consumers with wireless broadband services that are faster and travel greater distances than the wireless hot-spots and home networks currently in use. WiMax promises data speeds of up to 70 Mbps over distances of 37 miles or more.
Intel's announcement marks a big step in the development of WiMax technology, taking it from hype to reality. WiMax is expected to provide fixed and, eventually, mobile wireless broadband connectivity without the need for direct line-of-sight, says Mohammad Shakouri, VP and board member of the WiMax Forum, a nonprofit industry association formed to drive standardization and certification of WiMax technology.
Intel's PRO/Wireless 5116, known as "Rosedale," is based on the IEEE 802.16d specification, a standard for fixed WiMax that was finalized in June. The standard-based chip is designed to allow interoperability between equipment from different vendors, says Ed Agis, market development manager for the Wireless Broadband Division at Intel. "Interoperability could lead to broader deployment of WiMax," he says.
There are currently 15 service providers and 11 equipment vendors that have announced plans to deliver products based on Intel's chip. Collectively, they represent companies from developed and emerging markets in countries around the world, including the U.S., England, Latin America, India, and Europe. "You'll see a lot of vendors worldwide actively pursuing the triple play business model [of IP-based data, voice, and video]," said Ron Peck, director of WiMax marketing for Intel, at a news conference on Monday. "We intend to work aggressively with vendors to not only get them moved to the standard but also to actively work with them to grow the overall market for everybody."
AT&T is one of the service providers working with Intel. The company plans a commercial trial of WiMax in Middletown, N.Y., next month that will include IP-enabled frame-relay and managed Internet services, which could potentially be used for processing credit-card orders and monitoring inventory, says Chris Rice, director of access technology and services at AT&T Labs. "One of the things we like about WiMax is that it's clearly meant for fixed apps today, but there's a path to portability and mobility," he says. That means "only one network that you need to run to be able to serve diverse markets that are fixed, portable, and mobile."
Equipment makers Alvarion Ltd. and Proxim Corp. have been two of the most active WiMax participants, according to Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Both have incorporated Intel's WiMax chip into their equipment to allow the creation of high-speed wireless broadband. Alvarion introduced a pre-WiMax platform based on the Intel chip a year ago. BreezeMax has been deployed in more than 30 countries already, says Carlton O'Neal, VP of marketing at Alvarion and one of the founders of the WiMax Forum. Proxim launched its Tsunami Broadband Wireless Access System and software platform last November.
In July, the forum will open the doors to its test lab, where companies can begin testing equipment for conformance and interoperability. Intel expects products based on the chip to be available in the middle of this year, with trial deployments expected in the second half of this year.
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