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Commentary & Analysis

GeekSpeak: A Wi-Max Primer

By Pat Taylor,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: June 22, 2005

By Pat Taylor, Proactive Technologies “We have 15 carriers announcing trial, and I can tell you unabashedly, this is the tip of the iceberg of companies that want to try it.” May 22, 2005 -- Intel recently announced its first line of silicon for Wi-Max, the newest wireless communication standard. The California-based chip-meister used its marketing muscle to put Wi-Fi on the map and the latest iteration of wireless communication technology seems to be enjoying the same support. Ron Peck, director of marketing for Wi-Max at Intel says, “We have 15 carriers announcing trial, and I can tell you unabashedly, this is the tip of the iceberg of companies that want to try it.” About 11 equipment manufacturers, including Airspan Networks, Alcatel, Proxim, Siemens Mobile and ZTE Corporation, will be releasing products based on Intel’s Pro/Wireless 5116 chips. In addition, carriers such as AT&T, Qwest Communications International, SpeakEasy and Towerstream in the United States and a number of others overseas are currently testing products. IEEE’s 802.16 standard is known as Wi-Max (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), and actual services could be rolled out in the United States by the end of the 3rd quarter of 2005. Wi-Max is a point-to-multipoint wireless networking technology that can send and receive data at long distances. For this reason, it is considered an optimal technology for last-mile access in areas where wired connections are too expensive or not feasible. Unlike Wi-Fi’s relatively limited coverage area, one Wi-Max access point can cover about 30 miles. The technology supports mesh networking, so transmissions can travel much farther distances by “hopping” across a number of access points in a metropolitan area. Speeds can go up to 70 Mbps, but industry experts expect most service providers to offer speeds up to 10 Mbps (more than 6x faster than T1). Wi-Max is considered an optimal technology for last-mile access in areas where wired connections are too expensive or not feasible. Though early rollouts are expected to focus on partial T1-type service to small businesses, broadband access to home and SOHO users, and Wi-Fi backhaul, Intel expects service providers will roll out additional services-- such as VoIP and video-- in the future. Intel believes these services will come from established carriers as well as small incumbents, potentially offering new sources for solution providers. Since the 802.16 specification is based on a unified standard, vendors’ Wi-Max products should be interoperable and pricing should be more attractive to service providers. Telco Competition The technology has its challenges, however. In the United States, the prominent phone companies have already started an aggressive broadband buildout. They have a head start in capturing small business, SOHO and consumers who are still without services. Overseas, particularly in the developing nations, the technology has a greater potential to extend Internet service offerings to end-users at much lower cost for providers. Wi-Max access points are expected to cost between $250 and $550. Like all standards-based technology, prices should drop over time and Intel estimates the products will cost in the neighborhood of $50 per access point by 2008. Most experts believe Wi-Max’s real potential will come with the forthcoming 802.16e standard, which is expected to show up in the United States in late 2006. The 802.16e standard promises fast wireless speeds in broader coverage areas than currently available with Wi-Fi. Intel said the standard could be ratified as early as the end of the year, but it probably won’t show up in notebooks until 2007. For more information on Wi-Max technology, visit the following link: http://www.wimaxforum.org/technology

 

 

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