Texas Instruments is unconvinced WiMax will replace DSL

IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Despite all of the hype surrounding WiMax, chip maker Texas Instruments Inc. remains unconvinced the technology will revolutionize the way that broadband Internet services are delivered to homes and offices, according to a company executive.

"I'm not totally convinced that from the standpoint of providing broadband to the home that WiMax is going to be very effective," said Joseph Crupi, vice president of TI's Broadband Communications Group, during an interview last week in Shanghai.

WiMax, also known as 802.16, is a set of emerging wireless networking technologies that are being developed to cover large areas up to a range of 48 kilometers and provide data-transfer speeds up to 70M bps (bits per second). The first version of the technology, 802.16a, is expected to be used for fixed-wireless connections and future versions are planned to offer mobile access, opening up the possibility of putting the technology in notebook computers and cell phones.

The fixed-wireless version of WiMax has been aggressively pushed by Intel Corp. and others as an alternative to DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and cable for broadband Internet access.

But Crupi is skeptical of these plans, citing as an example the Broadband Wireless Internet Forum (BWIF), an industry group that several years ago advocated the adoption of a different fixed-wireless technology for broadband Internet access. While BWIF made many of the same promises now being made about WiMax, the BWIF technology was never deployed commercially and the broadband Internet access market has since come to be dominated by DSL and cable.

Crupi's doubts about the potential of the fixed-wireless version of WiMax as an alternative to DSL have not been eased by operators, who have so far not committed to deploying WiMax on a scale that would justify the investments needed for TI to offer products based on the technology. "A million-unit trial to us is not a lot of money, so we're looking for someone to really step up," Crupi said.

For example, in China, one of the world's fastest growing markets for broadband Internet services, operators are not talking much about WiMax, he said.

China Telecommunications Corp. (China Telecom), the country's largest broadband Internet provider, will primarily rely on DSL to provide broadband access to its customers, said Tian Hong, deputy general manager of China Telecom's Network Planning Division, speaking at a seminar in Shanghai last week. While Tian said China Telecom plans to try out FTTH (Fiber To The Home) services in the future, she made no mention of WiMax during her presentation.

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