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Product Introductions Set The Stage for WiMax

Major vendors like Intel, Motorola, Nokia, and Nortel show off gear for service providers and consumers
WiMax got another push forward last week when key equipment vendors rolled out or announced plans for WiMax gear for consumers and service providers. The moves by Intel, Motorola, Nokia, and Nortel Networks are a strong endorsement of WiMax and mean that much faster wireless services could become widely available in a year or two.

Growth Signal bar chartMotorola focused on the consumer market, introducing wireless modems at the WiMax World show that let home users connect to WiMax networks run by service providers. The devices, which wirelessly connect to a computer and a WiMax service provider, should be available early next year. Current versions are too large to fit inside notebook computers or cell phones, but Motorola plans to introduce WiMax chipsets in 2008 that will be integrated into its cell phones. Sprint, which plans to spend up to $3 billion over the next two years to build its WiMax network, is the only major U.S. carrier that has announced plans to sell Motorola's WiMax cell phones and smartphones.

Nokia, a Motorola competitor in the consumer and service provider markets, introduced its Flexi WiMax base station for service providers. The first version will operate in the 2.5-GHz band, which is used in the United States, and be available at the end of next year; base stations that operate in the 3.5-GHz band will be available in 2008. Nokia also plans to introduce WiMax-enabled mobile phones in 2008.

Nortel rolled out a portfolio of mobile WiMax technologies for service providers, including base station transceivers, network gateways, antennas, mobile subscriber stations, and management systems. And Intel, the world's largest chipmaker and a strong WiMax proponent, introduced a hardware and software package to let telecom equipment makers incorporate WiMax into their wireless base stations.

Analysts predict that millions will use WiMax to gain a wireless broadband Internet connection by the end of the decade if service providers start adding the technology to their networks. The introduction of WiMax equipment from major telecom vendors last week is a big step in that direction.