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WiMAX in notebooks in 2008: Intel May 4, 2007

Posted by Mustafa in Broadband, DSL, Internet, ISP, Paksitan, Wifi, WiMAX, Wireless, World, Worldwide.
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Intel will add WiMAX to notebooks in 2008, the chip giant told delegates at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing. WiMAX Vision spoke to Intel’s Christian Stavig, manager, WiMAX programme office, about his company’s WiMAX roadmap.

Source: http://www.wimax-vision.com/newt/l/wimaxvision/viewarticle.html?artid=20017419207

In a technology demonstration at the Developer Forum, David Perlmutter, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager, Mobility Group, showcased for the first time Intel’s mobile WiMAX with MIMO solution integrated into a concept Centrino-based notebook.

An evolution of its Santa Rosa processor, Intel’s “Montevina” processor will be available in the latter half of 2008. It will contain 40 per cent smaller components making it “ideal for mini- and sub-notebooks,” Intel said in a statement. 

Intel will also offer an integrated Wi-Fi/WiMAX solution “as an option” for notebook manufacturers and other OEMs using Montevina silicon.

That first Wi-Fi/WiMAX silicon combination, which will likely embed 802.16e and 802.11b/g/n in notebooks, will be called Echo Peak.

Meanwhile, in 2007, Intel will supply OEMs with a standalone WiMAX processor called Dana Point, which will be housed in an external data card.

Dana Point will predominantly be used in trials at the end of this year and into next year.

Intel is still discussing with its OEM and service provider partners what the best channels to market are for WiMAX, how the WiMAX ‘option’ will be exercised by manufacturers, service providers and consumers themselves, and what the combination of hardware and software will be. 

“There are two distribution models [for WiMAX], one is the Wi-Fi model where you ship it as embedded, the other is a 3G model where it is built to order. In the WiMAX market over time the solution is more like the existing Wi-Fi distribution,” says Stavig.

Intel has slipped behind its original timetable for introducing WiMAX into notebooks in 2006 and handheld devices in 2007.

Independent analyst group Signals Research cites concerns among PC manufacturers.

“The general consensus is that there is a ‘wait and see’ attitude in place among all of the leading PC manufacturers,” Signals Research suggests. “Bottom line, in the words of one major PC supplier, ‘our concern that there may not be enough [WiMAX] infrastructure in place to drive the cost down on the devices to a level that is competitive with other technologies.'”

But there is now a sense that sufficient momentum is building behind WiMAX infrastructure rollouts to justify an acceleration of Intel’s WiMAX plans.

Stavig cites the commitments Sprint Nextel and Clearwire have made to build out infrastructure in the US and says that, globally, Intel anticipates multiple operators deploying WiMAX. 

“There needs to be deployments to justify embedding and hopefully there will be a bunch of announcements this year and next and they will provide proof points to help support the embedded distribution model. I would say the market in general is accelerating.”

Stavig won’t put a figure on Intel’s expectations for WiMAX penetration in notebooks but the chipmaker clearly envisages WiMAX evolving towards the almost ubiquitous presence of Wi-Fi in notebooks. 

He argues that for notebook manufacturers the incremental costs of adding embedded WiMAX will be reasonable as there are “substantial commonalities and reuse” between Wi-Fi and WiMAX in the PHY, MAC and RF subsystem layers because the underlying OFDM-based chips operate in a similar fashion.

Sprint Nextel, for example, will operate WiMAX in 2.5GHz spectrum and with Wi-Fi operating at 2.4GHz there are “options for substantial RF reuse” according to Stavig.  

He concludes: “We think the cost difference between standalone WiMAX and Wi-Fi/WiMAX will be reasonable. We expect the gap to be smaller than other WAN solutions, than 3G.”

“WiMAX chipset prices could reach $15 with sufficient volumes in 2010 or even as low as $5 at another point in time assuming integration with Wi-Fi and meaningful volumes,” suggests Signals Research. “Our estimate is that consumers will pay at least $75 when an embedded WiMAX solution is first available.”

There are challenges associated with combining WiMAX and Wi-Fi in the same silicon, acknowledges Stavig, such as “noise issues” between the two technologies, and Intel will have to work with notebook manufacturers and other OEMs to create appropriate antenna designs. 

In Beijing, Intel senior fellow and director of its Communications Technology Lab, Kevin Kahn suggested the solution lies in creating parallel modules for each radio standard, using the radios “so that they are never physically doing operations at the same time.”

Also in Beijing, Intel executives confirmed that the company would not integrate 3G into its silicon, but what about further down the line, will Intel support LTE?

“We cancelled our internal 3G project due to insufficient ROI,” says Stavig. “While we no longer have an internal HSDPA solution that doesn’t make any statement on future 3GPP and 3GPP2 solutions.”

Stavig is also reticent about Intel’s specific plans for WiMAX in handheld devices, but confirms that the company is still exploring ways to get WiMAX into mobile equipment and notes that among vendors there is “strong demand for WiMAX across mobile platforms.”

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