Intel, Alcatel Link to WiMAX

In its quest to conquer a Wi-Fi hungry world, Intel said it has found a technology partner in telecom provider Alcatel .

The two companies issued a statement Thursday suggesting their combined efforts would result in the definition, standardization, development, integration and marketing of 802.16a technology (commonly known as WiMAX) products by the second half of 2005.

While the world sips its lattes and checks its e-mail at millions of hotspots around the globe, the need for another wireless technology may seem redundant. But 802.16a is considered the next step beyond Wi-Fi because it is optimized for broadband operation, fixed and later mobile, in the wide area network . It already includes numerous advances that are slated for introduction into the 802.11 standard, such as quality of service, enhanced security, higher data rates, and mesh and smart antenna technology allowing better utilization 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 as 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, the wireless MAN technology running on the licensed 2-6 GHz bands.

Researchers on the study suggest WiMAX is considered a migration path to 4G, but more likely to 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 senior analyst Andy Fuertes of Visant Strategies. “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.”

Intel’s aspirations for WiMAX are well documented. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip making giant said it expects equipment based on its chips to have a range of up to 30 miles and the ability to transfer data, voice and video at speeds of up to 70 Mbps.

And while Alcatel is best known for its land-based telecom operations, the company is active in the satellite industry. Its space unit develops satellite technology solutions for telecommunications, navigation, optical and radar observation, weather and scientific applications.

Sean Maloney, executive vice president and general manager of Intel Communications Group said he sees WiMAX as a great a last-mile alternative for competitive operators with a combined voice and broadband access offer, or nomadic access complementary to GSM/Edge, Wi-Fi and 3G.

“Alcatel’s leading position in fixed and mobile broadband access together with Intel’s expertise in leading the development and standardization of new technologies will help expedite the acceptance of WiMAX in the worldwide market for broadband services,” Maloney said in a statement.

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