SINGAPORE -- Intel notched a significant victory, this week, in the drive to bring connectivity to chronically underserved pockets of the world, when it announced it had successfully used a combination of WiMax and a geosynchronous satellite to beam wireless broadband to one of the most remote corners of Vietnam.
Working with the state-owned Vietnam Data Communication Company and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Intel said it had delivered Internet access to Ta Van, a village in mountainous northern Vietnam near the border with China. It set up a 3.3GHz WiMax base station that receives a spot beam from the IPSTAR satellite and distributes it throughout the village via an omni-directional antenna.
The pilot project has blanketed Ta Van--which has what could be the worst communications infrastructure in the country--with 2Mbps downlink and a 512Kps uplink Internet access, paving the way for voice-over-Internet protocol and other data services.
Intel Vietnam country manager Than Trong Phuc said the initiative had "tremendous implications for remote, underserved and marginalized communities worldwide," for it demonstrated "the combination of satellite and WiMax as a proven, reliable, cost-effective way" to help them tap into the knowledge economy.
While the company has yet to find any formal takers for the system, Intel spokesman Nick Jacobs told EE Times it would "encourage governments in emerging markets . . . to look closely at this as a means to connect their people to opportunity."
The IPSTAR satellite, operated by Thailand's Shin Satellite, is the world's largest broadband satellite, which currently has a footprint covering 14 Asia-Pacific countries, including Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Australia and New Zealand.
Users in Ta Van are now enjoying Internet services free, but its backers believe the WiMax/satellite technique is commercially feasible even for relatively cash-strapped regions. Jacobs said that, according to Intel's, calculations, the service could be offered for about $25 per end user connection per month, and could also bring in revenues by allowing communities to set up businesses, such as Internet cafes for tourists.