Sprint to work with Intel on mobile WiMax

Sprint Corp. has agreed to work with Intel Corp. to help get a mobile form of WiMax off the ground, signalling the mobile operator's interest in the technology for potential high-speed wireless services.

The agreement, announced last Thursday, calls for collaboration on the development of technology based on the emerging IEEE 802.16e specification. That standard, which is not expected to appear in generally available products until 2007 or 2008, is designed for WiMax services that customers can use while on the move. The companies will work together on product specifications, interoperability tests and equipment trials, according to a joint statement.

In its initial form, which is expected to hit the market around the end of this year, WiMax is designed to deliver speeds comparable to DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem service to stationary client devices over a range of 3-10 kilometers (about 2-6 miles). The IEEE 802.16e specification would extend WiMax to mobile devices across coverage areas with a typical radius of 3 kilometers. Intel has been an aggressive backer of WiMax and is betting big on the mobile version, which the company envisions being built in to notebook PCs and other mobile devices just as Wi-Fi is today.

WiMax is one of multiple technologies that Sprint is considering for high-speed Internet and multimedia services on its so-called MMDS (Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service) radio spectrum, a band around 2.5GHz, the company said in a statement. Once Sprint has completed its planned acquisition of Nextel Communications Inc., the combined company will hold most of the MMDS spectrum in the U.S. Sprint at one time used those frequencies for fixed wireless data service, and Nextel has run trials of mobile broadband technology from Flarion Technologies Inc., but neither carrier has committed to using a particular technology with this spectrum in the future. WiMax can be adapted to many different frequencies, including 2.5GHz.

Sprint currently is building out a 3G network with EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized), a form of CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology designed for typical throughput of about 300K bps (bits per second) to 500K bps to each customer.

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