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'Wi-Fi on steroids:' WiMax inches closer to devices

Intel Corp. announced Tuesday that is it sending samples of its WiMax wireless chip to select customers. Intel's "Rosedale" chip, based on the WiMax wireless broadband technology, is expected to be the first "system on a chip" to support the 802.16 standard. WiMax allows for wireless connections at broadband speeds over a distance of up to 30 miles. It may end up competing with cellular systems, and is expected to drive down the cost of fixed broadband Internet connections for businesses.

@5558 SearchNetworking.com spoke to Ron Peck, director of platform and solution marketing in Intel's WiMax, group, about what opportunities WiMax will offer to enterprises.

When are Intel's WiMax products expected to hit the market?
There are two relevant WiMax standards right now, 802.16-2004 and 802.16e. We expect products incorporating 802.16-2004 to hit in the second quarter of 2005. Products incorporating the latter standard, 802.16e, are likely to be out in the first quarter of 2006. What is the difference between the two standards?
The 802.16-2004 standard is written for fixed broadband wireless. The 802.16e standard extends the technology and adds the capability to take WiMax mobile. With that technology, we can look at how to connect the next range of people beyond DSL.

We do intend to do client integration of WiMax. I think it will develop like Wi-Fi.


Ron Peck, Intel Corp.

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How will WiMax affect the enterprise?
I think for anyone who has been down the path of using Wi-Fi, this is an interesting technology. It has been referred to as Wi-Fi on steroids. That is one way to think about it. We are talking about distances that are starting to overlap what cell towers are able to do. Does this become competitive with cellular technology?
At the technological level it is starting to breech that. The real question is what are the business models for a company that wants to do that. Will WiMax chips end up in devices like laptops or handhelds?
We have been pretty up-front about the 2006 time frame for 802.16e, but we do intend to do client integration of WiMax. I think it will develop like Wi-Fi. Enterprises will watch and see client equipment coming out and they will take advantage of that. I think you will see voice and data applications running on WiMax and campus or even citywide implementations. What about security?
The 802.16 standard is building in quality of service that will help with the range of emerging applications that can run on the networks. There are also security characteristics in 802.16. I think [in the industry], there was learning based on what we saw with Wi-Fi. With 802.16, it was necessary to deal with security from Day 1.
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How quickly will that market grow?
If you look at today's wireless broadband market, there are tens of hundreds of units. As those markets consolidate on a standard and costs start to come down, we see that growing to tens of millions. As 802.16e comes online, it will be deployed in even more devices and we think volumes will eventually be tens of millions and more. What are possible impediments for WiMax?
I don't see a lot of challenges for 802.16-2004. The challenges are in the next generation of technologies, like getting the 802.16e specification done and products into the market. You are talking about a technology that everyone in the industry is interested in. It is very attractive. 802.16-2004 is a stepping stone. There is a hunger to get to 802.16e and traditionally there have been challenges when there is that hunger in the industry. How will WiMax affect Wi-Fi or even Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is used within five feet of the source, and Wi-Fi within 100 feet of an access point. And 802.16 will be used one mile, 15 or even 20 miles away. Because of those differences, the devices will have a number of wireless technologies built into them. For example, a company might use 802.16 for the backhaul on their network, but a small business might connect to that network with Wi-Fi.

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