WiMAX bids to cover world with broadband
By Andy Goldberg Sep 26, 2007, 10:34 GMT
Chicago/San Francisco - From the remotest villages of Vietnam to Silicon Valley offices and Chicago's cavernous convention centre, a new mobile telecommunications technology is set to take the world a lot closer to the age of the ubiquitous internet.
WiMAX technology has long been tipped to transform the way people communicate with computers and hand-held devices. But some key developments in the run up to the WiMAX world convention that began Tuesday in Chicago indicate that the technology is set to take off into the mainstream.
If it all works out as planned, WiMAX will allow users to tap into wireless broadband internet services at the speed of DSL or cable. Because WiMAX has a range of 8 kilometres up to 50 kilometres, the technology has the capability of blanketing entire cities with a broadband cloud.
With base stations linked via satellite, WiMAX can also be used to link remote regions to a state-of-the-art communications systems - even in places where simple telephone access had been impossible until now.
US technology giant Intel proved the feasibility of such projects earlier this month when it hooked up the remote Vietnamese village of Ta Van with a WiMAX hotspot that blanketed the village with broadband. Users in Ta Van now enjoy free internet access.
Intel reckons that on a commercial basis, the service could be offered for about 25 dollars a month per end user, still a fortune in many developing countries.
However, costs will fall as the technology is rolled out in the developed world. Users in remote regions will also find huge economic benefits to their internet connections, which should help them defray the costs.
The US will be the first to enjoy the WiMax experience, which its backers call 4G to differentiate it from the 3G wireless networks currently available. Mobile phone company Sprint has spent 5 billion dollars building out WiMAX networks in some 30 US cities with combined populations of 100 million, which it expects to hook up in 2008.
Sprint could have faced the old chicken-and-egg problem, if not for an initiative announced last week by Intel.
The world's dominant maker of chips that power PC's announced that starting in November, it will roll out a new line of chips named Penryn that will be Intel's first using 45-nanometre technology.
They are expected to quickly become the industry standard for laptops and desktops and will be the smallest, most powerful and most efficient chips the company has ever made. Penryn chips will also all include built-in WiMAX receivers.
'Mobile users have an insatiable appetite for and want even more mobility, connectivity and a full internet on their smaller devices,' said Intel executive David Perlmutter. 'Intel will satisfy those needs and also use some of these technologies to bring an affordable computing and Internet experience to emerging communities and economies around the world.'
Motorola, the world's second-largest cellphone manufacturer, is also betting on the new technology, announcing a new WiMAX chipset Tuesday and calling the technology 'the most cost-effective, fastest and easiest-to-deploy option in the market today, often providing an economical way to provide telecom service where previously there was none.'
Intel sees the technology spreading around the world within five years, and technology consultant Carmi Levy has little doubt that Intel's stance will make WiMAX the broadband technology of the future.
'Intel's Centrino chips legitimized Wi-Fi,' said Levy. 'This will do the same for WiMAX - it will become a basic feature of any computer you will buy.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur