Intel & Alcatel Conspire on Mobile WiMax

By Jeff Goldman

February 17, 2005

They've worked together for a while on the standard WiMax that's coming soon. Now these big players are hatching plans for the 802.16e standard.

This week at the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, Alcatel and Intel announced their intention to work together on nomadic and mobile WiMax solutions based on the IEEE 802.16e standard, with the goal of doing field trials early next year and bringing products to market a few months later.

According to the announcement, the two companies plan to share internal development resources to build, integrate, and conduct interoperability testing for both Intel's WiMax client silicon and Alcatel's WiMax network infrastructure. The companies will also work together to influence and encourage the development and promotion of the 802.16e (AKA mobile WiMax) standard.

Michael Thelander, CEO of the research firm Signals Research Group, notes that compatibility issues have proved a challenge for the wireless industry in the past. "The advent of WiMax and the strategic relationship between Alcatel and Intel addresses these issues and lays the foundation for broadband wireless to succeed," he says.

Mike Seymour, vice president for Alcatel's Mobile Radio Division, notes that the companies have been working together on 802.16-2004/WiMax solutions since March of last year—it's the move to mobile WiMax that's the focus of this week's announcement.

"As we assessed the market over the past year, we really believed that the mobility and flexibility of 802.16e was a place we wanted to focus on," Seymour says.

For Alcatel, Seymour says, it's an opportunity to collaborate with a dominant player in the wireless broadband market. "Certainly, we recognize that Intel is going to be, and has been, a leading market force—and will be the dominant CPE vendor for WiMax as things launch in the short term," he says. "So for us, it's a good partnership that we want to continue to grow."

Ron Peck, director of marketing for Intel's WiMax Group, says the alliance with Alcatel helps Intel bridge the gap between two essential technologies.

"We view Alcatel as an extremely strong company both in broadband and wireless," he says. "Because what we're essentially trying to do is to create a great broadband wireless experience, they were a very logical alliance for us."

Working with Alcatel, Peck adds, gives Intel a chance to make sure that its WiMax solution is as strong as possible. "We intend to integrate WiMax into a number of our clients, most notably our notebooks, and obviously we need tremendous communication infrastructure people to work closely with, to make sure it meshes seamlessly with the infrastructure," he says.

The conventional wisdom is that development of mobile WiMax is likely to proceed in stages, growing gradually from the ability to connect at separate hotspots to roaming and true mobility. "How gradual is it remains a bit of an open question," Peck says. "Certainly, I think it will take a little longer to get from portability to mobility, but whether that's six months or a year, I don't know yet."

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