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Intel sets timeline for WiMAX chips

Posted: 16 Dec 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:intel? wimax chip? wimax? 802.16e? rosedale?

Intel Corp. eyes 2006 as a realistic timeline for the rollout of its WiMAX chips. While there have been early claims about WiMAX-ready devices and products, Intel warns manufacturers and vendors to take it easy before jumping into the bandwagon. "Devices that claim to be 802.16e compliant are premature since the specification has not been ratified, not until mid-2005," said Lonnie McAlister, product line manager of wireless networking group at Intel Communications Group, Asia-Pacific.

WiMAX is an emerging standard that promises to provide high-speed broadband connectivity in both fixed and mobile wireless networks. With this capability, chipmakers and network vendors are making a great deal of effort to develop the infrastructure and silicon for it. "We believe only standard-based non-proprietary solutions can drive the economics for a sustainable industry or business," said McAlister. "Adoption rates of standard-based technologies are proven to be quicker and more cost-effective than proprietary solutions such as Ethernet and Wi-Fi."

Intel has recently developed its first integrated IEEE 802.16 SoC, the Rosedale chip. The Rosedale product is a WiMAX-compliant chip that includes 802.16-2004 MAC and 256OFDM PHY, integrated 10/100MAC, in-line security processing and TDM controller interface that enables applications such as broadband Internet and data streaming.

Maturing markets

With the Asia-Pacific being seen as the region with the highest penetration rate for wireless broadband mobile devices in the coming years, Intel's WiMAX chips will initially set foot in Korean soil. China and India, meanwhile, have the promise of the largest number of fixed and portable devices. WiMAX is expected to be available to service operators by the end of 2006 and will be incorporated in wireless handsets by the end of 2007. "That's when the technology will mature, which means there's only minimal latency," said McAlister.

Intel aims to bring the technology to the market as early as possible so that hardware can be developed. Using the hardware platforms, the market can then develop the software to bring WiMAX technology to its maturity. "We expect the prices of WiMAX-certified equipment to significantly drive down the prices of today's wireless broadband solutions, making this technology affordable to our clients," said McAlister.

"WiMAX solves a real emerging need for a high-speed, packet-based infrastructure with high spectrum efficiency," said Gadi Singer, VP and CTO at Intel's Communications Group, during the recent Intel Developer Forum Fall 2004 in Taiwan.

Spectrum is one of the most precious commodities in the wireless arena, said Singer, and the ability to drive a lot of data over a distance with high spectrum efficiency has become a sought-after demand in mobile devices as broadband applications continue to evolve.

As Intel and other WiMAX advocates wait for the approval of the 802.16 standards, more and more manufacturers and vendors are joining the fray in the push for WiMAX technology. Intel's Singer reports that WiMAX Forum now has 150 companies and a total of 40 product testings have already been done.

Early efforts

To make early deployments of WiMAX technologies, Intel recently made a partnership with wireless broadband services company Clearwire to develop and install wireless broadband capabilities using WiMAX networks. As part of the collaboration, Clearwire intends to deploy WiMAX networks using wireless broadband equipment from its subsidiary, NextNet.

In August, Clearwire launched its first broadband wireless network in Jacksonville, Florida. Using NextNet's equipment, the network is a precursor to upcoming WiMAX networks. It uses technologies similar to WiMAX and offers comparable features that will be available in a full-scale WiMAX network. Customers of the Clearwire network in Jacskonville simply connect their computer to a NextNet modem with an Ethernet cable, power it up and receive Internet access anywhere within the Clearwire coverage area. No software installation or system configuration is required.

The partnership is paving the way for future products supporting the upcoming IEEE 802.16e standard for WiMAX. This venture is part of Intel Capital's strategy to invest $150 million in wireless technology to help accelerate adoption of high-speed wireless networks worldwide. However, specific financial terms were not disclosed.

- Rey Buan Jr.

Electronic Engineering Times - Asia

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