March 08, 2006, 9:25 AM — Intel Corp. on Tuesday demonstrated the technology on which mobile WiMax will be based and said it will deliver a PC Card using the system in the second half of this year.
Mobile WiMax is a wide-area network technology intended to deliver 1M bps (bit per second) or more to devices in motion. It will be based on IEEE 802.16e, a specification approved late last year, and products will be certified by the WiMax Forum industry group. Intel and other vendors have come under criticism over the past few years for overhyping WiMax. Intel has forecast that WiMax will spread like Wi-Fi wireless LANs have, thanks to standardized high-volume manufacturing.
Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of its mobility group, demonstrated the technology during a keynote address at Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. In the demonstration, Maloney used an 802.16e PC Card in a notebook that was attached to an electric scooter and was based on Intel's Napa platform. The system delivered about 2M bps of throughput and supported a live video blog from a camera on the scooter, as well as presenting driving directions and a real-time weather forecast from the Web.
WiMax can be used in any of a broad range of frequency bands, and different bands are expected to be used in different regions, in most cases by carriers who have licensed the spectrum. The PC Card coming this year will use the 2.3GHz-to-2.5GHz band, which Maloney said is being examined for WiMax in Asia. In the U.S., Sprint Nextel Corp. holds a large number of licenses for spectrum around the 2.5GHz band and ClearWire Corp. already offers a mobile wireless broadband service in that frequency range in some areas.
Maloney also showed off a prototype chipset for both WiMax and Wi-Fi, capable of shifting among frequencies in the 2.3GHz to 2.5GHz band, the 3.5GHz band and the entire 5GHz band, he said. Those ranges encompass the 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands that are used for 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi wireless LANs, as well as the upcoming high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi specification, he said.
Within about three years, Intel expects Wi-Fi and WiMax to merge onto one chipset, Maloney said. The chipset shown on Tuesday is the first step toward that, Maloney said.
The first generation of WiMax products, designed for use in one place, hit the market in certified form in late January after some missed targets in standards approval and testing. Maloney said there have been "significant" increases in volume and declines in prices on those products already.