SAN FRANCISO – Good things come in small packages, but sometimes there
are just too many. That’s the challenge facing designers of mobile devices
and even notebook computers trying to keep up with the multitude of wireless
standards and technologies to support it.
“We have an exploding number of radio standards to deal with,” said Kevin
Kahn, senior fellow and director of the communications technology lab at
Intel. “There’s Wi-Fi, WiMAX
And then there’s also an ungodly number of different frequency bands these
things operate at.”
Kahn briefed a small group of reporters here Thursday on some of Intel’s
work in the wireless area and the challenges it
faces. It’s not just a case of supporting different wireless technologies,
but making them all work – and fit – in increasing small mobile devices.
Intel and others are working on so-called ultramobile
devices that have the functionality or near-functionality of a PC, but
are small enough to be carried around in your pocket. But Kahn said even
outfitting a standard notebook PC is becoming problematic.
designs get thinner and lighter, “there’s amazingly little space” to cram in
multiple pieces of communications hardware and the shielding, even if it’s
only a millimeter thick, to make it all work without interference.
Kahn said if you open a typical PC notebook you’ll find a “very noisy
environment” full of electromagnetic noise and circuits oscillating at high
But the real challenge is small devices. “There’s no question Intel
believes in the future of the ‘Internet in your pocket’,” Creative
Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin told internetnews.com. “And the only
way to do that is with a rich, multilayered approach to wireless
“The good news is the way the market and the FCC are driving this next
generation of ubiquitous connectivity which will be around Wi-Fi and WiMAX when
it’s not carrier-based.”
Intel was an early backer of the Wi-Fi wireless standard and its
integration and promotion of that technology is credited with helping to
establish it as standard in notebook PCs. Kahn said Intel continues to work
and invest in the area because traditional PC manufacturers are not well
equipped to integrate these very small components and make them all work.
“The industry and Intel has to sort through this mess and do things like
squeeze antennas into smaller form factors,” said Kahn.
Limiting frequencies or different wireless standards is not a practical
option because it limits the potential market for these mobile devices.
“It’d be a lot easier if we said we don’t like this or that band, but if
folks want it, we have to provide it,” said Kahn.
Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said there will be tradeoffs for
the foreseeable future. “Cellular is relatively ubiquitous, but there are
hard tariffs and relatively slow speeds,” Greengart told
“Wi-Fi can be free if it’s your account or on a corporate campus and it’s
high speed, but it’s not ubiquitous. Bluetooth is very local. We’re going to
get continuous connectivity with things like WiMAX and different use cases
for different technology.”