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Intel pledges WiMAX broadband connectivity in Asia

Posted: 30 Sep 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wimax? intel?

McAlister: We see WiMAX and 3G as complementary technologies. Wi-Fi is also a complementary technology of WiMAX.

Remarkable efforts in advancing WiMAX wireless broadband are being made by Intel Corp. for the massive deployment of its infrastructure in Asia, especially in developing countries. WiMAX is a standards-based wireless technology that offers high-speed, broadband access over long distances, providing connectivity for homes, businesses and mobile wireless networks.

Lonnie McAlister, product line manager for the Wireless Networking Group at Intel Communications Group Asia-Pacific is responsible for product marketing and enabling infrastructure for Intel's WiMAX and Wi-Fi silicon solutions. McAlister spoke with EE Times-Asia about the noteworthy aspects of WiMAX technology in the Asian region.

EE Times-Asia: What is Intel doing for WiMAX in terms of industry perspective?
Lonnie McAlister: From an industry perspective, Intel is heavily involved in worldwide forums!those of IEEE and WiMAX. In the IEEE forum, Intel has a large engineering contingent and we are focused on developing the 802.16 technology for portable and mobile marketplaces. There are two working groups!one focused on security and the other on manageability. Intel works with many players in this forum. We want to develop a technology that can be developed by the world on a level playing field. We're trying to keep the IPR cost down so that many players can compete, since it is a worldwide standard.

The WiMAX forum tests these solutions for compliance to the specs defined by IEEE and also to ensure that they are interoperable and vendor agnostic.

Intel is also involved in a lot of marketing campaigns for the awareness of the need for wireless broadband. We see also this as a viable product for enabling our next-generation of PCs. We are focused on these forums because we want to put more features in our PCs and enable an entirely new market. For people that do not have access to broadband, WiMAX is the way this gets enabled. When we put the infrastructure in place, we enable the client solutions!notebooks, PDAs, handsets.

Broadband in general is a technology that will enable new kinds of applications!from healthcare, to make it more efficient and more accurate; to people in developing countries that do not have any wired infrastructure yet require broadband from an educational perspective; to small businesses, again in developing countries that don't have the infrastructure. WiMAX will make it cheap and affordable to allow people to participate in a global market.

How is Intel involved in WiMAX from a product standpoint?
We need to make WiMAX more successful. Fixed-access solutions are the first step in the WiMAX evolution. WiMAX is will be tested on fixed-access first, evolving the processes and testing for interoperability. Fixed-access technology is much simpler than mobile technology, so this is a great stepping stone to the latter.

Intel has already announced our system-on-a-chip (SoC), the Intel broadband wireless interface, or the 5116 interface we call Rosedale. This product was announced in April. Recently, I received notification from one of our equipment partners that they are now producing this chip. That is what we are playing in the fixed-access market.

Next year, we will be shipping 802.16e solutions that are designed to support portable- and mobile-type applications. These 2G devices will enable 2G CPE (customer-premises equipment) fixed-access equipment and PDA and notebook markets.

What are the challenges that WiMAX development currently faces in terms of technology?
This technology is so complicated that the path that we are following is a Wi-Fi path. The challenges are interoperability, costs and power. The WiMAX forum is actually designed to deal with the interoperability issue. Those who want to be WiMAX-certified must pass a test to prove not only compliance to the specs, but also interoperability of the solutions between vendors.

Another aspect is cost. We made a prediction, following the Wi-Fi curve, on costs for client devices and CPEs and we are already seeing that come true. We predicted $500 CPEs by this time, but they've already dropped lower than that. The promise there is already coming true and it is because competition is really kicking in trying to get these carriers to be deployed first. The price is also dropping very fast, which is great news because it means that WiMAX is really following the Wi-Fi path.

The other aspect is power. As long as it is fixed access and you are plugged in the wall, you don't have to really worry about power. You have to worry about battery life. When you get into smaller devices with limited battery life, such as notebooks and PDAs, power consideration becomes key. We are looking at that in our 2G portable solution based in 802.16e.

Where is the epicenter of growth for global WiMAX adoption?
It is happening all over the world, but especially in Asia and its developing areas. Developed areas such as Korea, Japan and Taiwan are actually more focused on the portable and mobile environment. But developing areas like India, Malaysia and Thailand are just desperate for access because they don't have infrastructure in place. They have hundreds of thousands of customers demanding the access now, so they are heavily focused on deploying 802.16e to address that market.

There are reports from IDC that suggest that the mobile version of WiMAX is unlikely to live up to expectations and it is somewhat overhyped. What can you say about this?
To be blunt, I think they are wrong. The mobile WiMAX, from a technology perspective, is proven technology. OFDM, for instance, has been around for quite a while and that's what is based on. What they have done is to address capacity, range and signal fading.

I feel very confident that we are taking proven existing OFDM technology. We added new features that have been proven very successful!MIMO technology, for instance. The 802.16e will be able to take advantage of MIMO technology, which is also what Wi-Fi is doing to increase not only range, but also throughput. These are technologies that have actually been proven adopted by WiMAX to take advantage of mobile markets.

From a hype perspective, people can always make wild claims. Until the actual technology is there, you really don't know how great it is.

At the end of 2006, we will start rolling out the infrastructure for 802.16e for portable and mobile networks!not 2008, which is what a lot of people have been saying. Once the infrastructures are in place, the client devices can roll out. And 2008 is when you will actually get it in handsets, but you'll see it widely used in notebooks in 2007, well in advance of what they've predicted. That technology alone will prove the viability of WiMAX.

How can Intel's PC and microprocessors' strength be leveraged to capture the mobile and wireless segment?
There are a lot of software-defined radios that are coming out nowadays in base stations. Our processors are going to be focused more on the base-station aspect of this market than on the client devices. A lot of these technologies, including WiMAX, are at the software layer. Since it is software, all you need is a high-powered processor, and Intel makes some that actually develop the intelligence around a WiMAX deployment. We configure software-defined radios through firmware load. Our processors are working very well and we are developing a lot of reference designs around base stations.

Do you see a market overlap between WiMAX and Wi-Fi and other generations of cellular systems in the future?
We see WiMAX and 3G as complementary technologies. Wi-Fi is also a complementary technology of WiMAX.

Wi-Fi networks are great indoor networks. You have cheap access points that you can easily install indoors or anywhere you have blind spots. This is also a great enterprise network solution because the enterprise can control the configuration and security of those access points.

When you go outside into large metro zone areas like Taipei, you have a lot of people being able to pick up an outdoor WiMAX signal that covers the whole city of Taipei. You buy one subscription for data access and you have data anywhere you go in the city.

3G is a great voice-centric technology. Data was added on as an afterthought to a voice service. Service providers make profits on their voice service. So when 3G was developed and evolved, data was an afterthought and was a value-added service to people who were buying the voice service.

With WiMAX, you get a cheap data service that can be added on to a great voice service. You can even throw Wi-Fi in the handset solution. So now you have the Wi-FI, WiMAX, 3G handset that gives you good voice and data services no matter where you go. You get good indoor service with Wi-Fi, good outdoor service with WiMAX and you get good voice service anywhere you go with 3G. That is how we see WiMAX, Wi-FI and 3G being complementary.

How important is Asia to the Intel Mobility Group?
Asia is very important to Intel. From a WiMAX perspective, if it doesn't get adopted in Asia and in China, the promise of a worldwide solution is not there. Intel is very focused on making WiMAX successful around the world and Asia is key to making that happen.

Do you see Intel collaborating with Asian companies in the future for developing WiMAX in terms of infrastructure and technology?
The ODM market in Taiwan has proven to be instrumental in enabling low-cost PCs around the world. We are using the same ODM model to actually enable low-cost WiMAX solutions and drive the prices down. Asian companies are key to our strategy of driving the prices down so that everyone can afford the technology.

In an effort to speed up WiMAX broadband deployment in Southeast Asian countries, Intel recently announced the Asian Broadband Campaign, bringing broadband wireless consulting and expertise with silicon and technical services to nations such as Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

- Reden Mateo
Electronic Engineering Times-Asia

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