After its famed ballyhoo with China over wireless standards, Intel
has mustered two development deals to advance its position
in broadband wireless technology.
In a statement Thursday, the Santa Clara, Calif.,-based chip making giant
said it has signed a memoranda of understanding with the municipal
governments in Dalian and Chengdu to install WiMAX (also known as 802.16a).
The metro area technology is being touted as a wireless alternative for
last-mile broadband connection for businesses and homes. Specific terms of
the agreements were not disclosed.
Intel’s aspirations for WiMAX are well documented, and executives like
Intel senior fellow Kevin Kahn suggest
that WiMAX is perfect for rural areas. The company is close to producing
silicon with a range of up to 30 miles and the ability to transfer data,
voice and video at speeds of up to 70 Mbps.
“Digital technology, the expansion of wireless networking and the
convergence of computing and communications will continue to enhance the way
business is transacted, allow access to new markets and boost commerce
globally,” John Antone, Intel vice president and the general manager of
sales and marketing for Asia Pacific, said in a statement.
The agreement with Chinese officials is a clear sign that the
country wants to put its past behind it. Late last year, wireless chipmakers
like Intel and Broadcom
had their backs
against the wall, because China said it would require all foreign
semiconductor manufacturers to use a wireless encryption plan known as the
Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI). The little known
scheme is incompatible with the open global wireless security standard (IEEE
802.11 and 802.11b) used by chipmakers and electronics manufacturers.
In April, officials in Beijing backed down and indefinitely suspended its deadline to impose a proprietary wireless LAN encryption scheme within
Dalian and Chengdu should be interesting deployments for Intel. Known for its
industry, trade and finance, Dalian is a port city in China’s northeast region,
with a population of 5.9 million. Chengdu, the larger of the two cities, is the capital
of Sichuan province and covers 12,390 square kilometers (7,698.78 square miles)
with a population of more than 10 million. Not only is Chengdu a hub for the southwest region in the area of
commerce and trade, but it also supports more than 20 universities with a strong
R&D research facility community.
As a wireless technology, 802.16a is considered the next
step beyond Wi-Fi, because it is optimized for broadband operation, fixed and
mobile, in the wide area network. It already includes numerous
advances that are slated for introduction into the 802.11 standard. Quality of service,
enhanced security, higher data rates and mesh and smart
antenna technology all allow better use of the spectrum.
A recent study by Visant Strategies entitled “802.16/WiMAX Technologies:
World Market Forecasts 2003-2008,” found WiMAX and Wi-Fi
complementary, because the two technologies address different segments of the
market and are optimized for different tasks — local vs. metropolitan area
networking. Last-mile access will be the first application for 802.16a, but
mobility will follow via 802.16e.
Researchers involved in the study suggest WiMAX is
considered a migration path to 4G, but more likely will be used by holders of
Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum rather than mobile carriers.
802.16a is also expected to play a role in outdoor and private networks, the
extension of hot spots and backhaul applications that lack line-of-sight.
The opportunity for 802.16a equipment is forecast to reach a value of
approximately $1 billion in 2008, the study found, with growth accelerating
late in the period.
“Under the current conditions, 802.16a could emulate 802.11’s rise
several years from now,” said study author Andy Fuertes, Visant Strategies senior analyst.
“Many chip and equipment vendors ignored the chance to get
into the 802.11 market early and create market share due to market-size
limitations created by high equipment costs, a much smaller potential
audience and no need for all things Internet and intranet yet. WiMAX offers
these technology companies a fresh start.”