Tech Insider

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Intel Sees Mobile Broadband Starting in 2006

Wireless broadband technology WiMax is getting serious attention from both fixed and mobile telecom operators, but it will take years before a mass market of consumers will use it, Intel said on Friday.

Sean Maloney, head of Intel‘s mobility unit, said many trials were under way, but the actual deployment of mobile WiMax would not start this year.

"You‘ll probably see things at the back end of 2006, you‘ll probably see some ... trials earlier than that," he told Reuters in an interview.

WiMax is seen as a longer-range successor to Wi-Fi, the wireless computer standard popularized in coffee shops and used in homes and restaurants. WiMax enables broadband Internet connections over several miles or kilometers, currently to fixed locations but next year also to mobile devices such as laptops or small computers.

He said most mobile operators are to some extent interested in entering the WiMax field, where the first service providers have already started to offer connections.

Dutch company Enertel‘s WiMax service is now available in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven. By the end of 2005 its network will offer national coverage across the Netherlands.

Surprisingly, it is not just fixed-line telecoms operators who see WiMax as a way of getting into the mobile services business. Mobile operators see WiMax as an alternative wireless network to relieve their newly built 3G networks from heavy data users and cut costs.

Maloney expects handset makers and operators to roll out a lot of phones using Wi-Fi during the next 12 months, but WiMax phones will come later as the mobile chips are not yet ready.

"Some of mobile operators want to talk about it immediately and get involved and do trials," Maloney said, adding there were major differences between operators, as some are preoccupied with launching their fast-speed third-generation

"3G is in deployment phase now .... With WiMax on the mobile side we are at least two years behind that," Maloney said, adding the networks could cooperate in the future.

"There is an opportunity, in four to five years or so, in harmonizing the two standards, getting an intersection point between the two," Maloney said.

Maloney said standardization of a version of WiMax for laptops and portable devices -- which has been delayed due to technological bickering -- is expected in the coming months.

"It is not done, but I think the principal agreements have been reached," he said.

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