WiMax in Your Pocket

By Eric Griffith

April 18, 2007

It's not just a broadband replacement any more -- WiMax will be in your laptop and phone by late next year.

What was once just going to be a long-range, high-bandwidth wireless technology to replace your cable or DSL -- with a stop at a CPE/modem along the way -- may now go directly to your favorite devices.

And that is, apparently, just what the public wants. In-Stat's latest survey of 1,200 people in the United States indicated the public wants WiMax even more than 3G or Wi-Fi. 50% said they'd change their broadband provider if they could get one with a wireless broadband bundle; their interest in a 3G/cellular data service dropped whenever they were told about the current pricing.

Luckily for those people, the vendors know this, and more and more of late have made announcements about devices that will integrate WiMax, sometimes with Wi-Fi and sometimes without.

For example, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in Beijing, China today, Intel spelled out the roadmap for its Centrino processor tech. The Santa Rosa chipset is well known: it comes out in May and integrates a Core 2 Duo processor, the Mobile Intel 965 Express chips, and Intel Next-Gen Wireless N along with Gigabit Ethernet and Turbo Memory. But in 2008, Santa Rosa will be supplanted by a new chipset, codenamed "Penryn" (which uses a 45nm silicon process technology with high-k metal gate transistors), then again later next year by "Montevina." By then, the chips will be small enough for sub-notebooks and ultra-mobile PCs. What's more, Montevina will feature integration of Wi-Fi and mobile WiMax.

Intel is certainly not alone with the WiMax in your hand. Several outlets reported earlier this week on a slew of products that have been announced by several vendors.

Rivals Nokia and Motorola both plan to have mobile WiMax handsets available in 2008. GigaOm was told by Nokia that even its Wi-Fi tablets like the N800 would get a WiMax refresh.

Samsung will have devices specifically for the mobile WiMax deployment in South Korea called WiBro, including a USB dongle, a smartphone that supports WiBro and EV-DO, and what they call a "convergence device" (right) with a 2.8-inch touchscreen for doing voice and multimedia communications as well as a fold-out full keyboard. No Wi-Fi in these, though -- just WiMax and Bluetooth. No word on when/if they'll migrate to other WiMax services, although Samsung has said it would make WiMax PC Cards for laptops so they can use the Sprint WiMax network in the U.S. Other vendors Sprint has named include ZTE Corp. for cards, both ExpressCards and USB dongles, and ZyXEL for WiMax modems/CPEs.

Nokia, Motorola and Samsung all make WiMax infrastructure equipment as well, and have all been picked as equipment providers for Sprint Nextel's roll-out of mobile WiMax networks in the U.S. Sprint has gone on record saying it wants to be sure WiMax will reach indoor locations as well as outdoors.

Korea also will soon get a device combining WiMax, 3G and mobile video from LG.

Last month, Airspan Networks announced its first mobile WiMax USB device, the 16eUSB.

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