WiMAX, we love the idea (wireless broadband with a potential range of up to 30 miles) but its evolution has been nothing short of a slow crawl over broken glass and rusty nails. Thankfully, the telcos at least have something to work with after Intel today threw them its first WiMAX chipset.
The Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 interface - above and below - (previously known as Rosedale, which we liked more) is based on the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard. 802.16-2004, for those of you understandably in need of a refresher, is the agreed specification (like 802.11a/b/g for short range wireless) for wide area wireless broadcasts, which should mean that when the time comes the various WiMAX equipment from different vendors will all work together.
Which telcos have been given the Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 chipset to play with? In the UK it is obviously BT. For the US - AT&T, Qwest, Speakwasy and TowerStream; France - Altitude Telecom, Brazil - Brasil Telecom; Columbia - ETB; Spain - Iberbanda; Argentina – Millicom; India – Sify; South Africa - Telkom; Mexico – Telmex and (surprisingly) Ukraine - UHT.
Of course, there is still a very long way to go between giving telcos their first look at the Intel WiMAX chip and actually seeing solutions role out from it (think how long it took ADSL to get a foothold). Certainly - while there may be trials this year - we are highly unlikely to see a proper role out of services until a good way through 2006.
By this time it may well face stiff competition from the second generation of 3G devices, which already offer users speeds of up to 384kbps while on the move. Clearly, Intel’s ultimate aim will be to pull-a-Centrino by integrating WiMAX into its laptop chipsets the same way it did with standard short range wireless. That way users could simply switch on their machines, tap into... say BT’s London WiMAX signal and walk anywhere in the great Metropolis fully connected.
Naturally, the technology also has incredible potential for poorer countries with less developed network infrastructures. Just one central point would have to be set up with WiMAX and the surrounding area could tap into it.
It’s a great dream – and one that today’s news brings closer – we just hope we will not need the patience of a saint before we see it first hand.