This year it was held in Gdansk in Poland and the hot topic was WiMAX.
This began with a trip to Intel’s main lab in Gdansk, and here the real info started to leak out. Intel acquired the lab from Olicom, a data networking organisation, in 1999 and has expanded it to be a key part of its Communications Infrastructure Group (CIG). It specialises in network and desktop networking interfaces and connectivity and can literally scale miniature 3G and WiMAX environments over very small and specific distances to test out equipment. Nice!
Leszek Pankiewicz (below), President of the Board at the lab, talked about “Wireless City Gdansk”, a project to make the scenic area one of the first fully covered WiMAX locations in the world. Intel benefits from partial city funding for this project and Pankiewicz described Gdansk as the perfect test best for 802.16. “We hope to complete the installation of several WiMAX base stations here this year, for testing in 2006,” he said. Testing will take of the form of business and local government trials, with the option for tourists and the general public to also connect up.
Pankiewicz then offered us a tour of the Gdansk lab, accompanied by Technical Marketing Manager Wojciech Bendyk, Hardware Development Manager Jacek Budny, Test Processes Manager Mariusz Linda and IT Site Manager Jacek Czajka. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photography during this time, but naturally much of the equipment in labs is in such a raw state that you aren’t missing a lot.
I quizzed Budny during our rounds about the localised 3G and WiMAX environments Intel is able to run there and he said he was confident that, based on their testing, it will be the latter technology which can be deployed at a lesser cost. This is perhaps a predictable response since WiMAX is very much Intel’s horse, but Budny said actual proof of this shouldn’t be too far away.
Back in the presentation room Pankiewicz was keen to show me some of the system reference designs the lab is also working on. These are based around the new generation of Intel’s Network Preocessors (IXP2400, IXP2800) and ATCA (Advanced Telecommunication and Computer Architecture). The shot above shows a rack mounted array of boards, the majority of which can incorporate 3G, WiMAX and Wi-FI on a single board.
“The problems are still size and cost,” said Pankiewicz when I asked him when we might see these standards integrated into more mobile devices like laptops and phones. “We can make large units that plug into portable devices now, but their size is not practical and neither is their cost. Only half the battle is developing the technologies, the other half is getting it to a state where it is convenient and affordable to the consumer.”
How cheap has Intel managed to get its unified adaptors so far? “They are still in excess of $200 each,” Pankiewicz revealed.
From here it was onto the most formal part of the Forum, the academic presentations held at Gdansk university. Catch those details in the concluding part of this article tomorrow.