SAN JOSE, Calif. Intel officially rolled out its WiMax silicon for notebooks, one of several new products discussed at an event marking the roll out of WiMax services in Baltimore. The PC chip giant has discussed for more than a year its plans to bring WiMax to notebooks, but to date the technology has been slow to gain traction in the U.S.
Intel is now shipping its WiMax/Wi-Fi Link 5050 Series, also known as Echo Peak, a combined module for the wireless technologies as an option for notebooks using its Intel Core 2 processors. Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba said they will support the module as an option in systems shipping this year. Dell, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony will support it in 2009.
At an event Wednesday (Oct. 8) in Baltimore, executives from Xohm, the WiMax division of Sprint Nextel, described other devices it will offer as part of rolling out its first WiMax services there.
Later this month, Xohm will start selling a WiMax version of the Nokia N810 Internet tablet, a widescreen smartphone that includes a keyboard. It will also provide a WiMax USB peripheral for notebooks from ZTE Corp (Shenzhen, China). In addition, Sprint Nextel said it will launch a dual-mode cellular and WiMax handset from an unnamed vendor before the end of the year.
Sprint's dual-mode plan indicates its intention to use cellular for voice and WiMax for data, said Craig Mathias, principal of consulting firm The Farpoint Group (Ashland, Mass.).
"That was a bit of a surprise," Mathias said. "So now you really have to think about WiMax as a wireless data network."
Sprint expects to complete by the end of the year its deal to sell Xohm to startup Clearwire which aims to deploy a nationwide WiMax network. Intel provided some financing for the deal as part of its efforts to establish WiMax as a conduit for mobile Internet traffic.
WiMax "will ultimately redefine where, when and how people enjoy that mobile experience" said Sean Maloney, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer of Intel in a prepared statement.
Xohm has said it aims to deploy WiMax next in Washington D.C. and Chicago.
"The biggest question is how rapidly they will roll out coverage in new cities and how broadly the coverage will be in those cities," said Mathias. "This is a consumer service until they have enough critical mass to be useful for businesses," he added.
Mathias said he still expects Long Term Evolution, the next generation of cellular technology, to dominate as much as 80 percent of the wireless service market in the long run. However both LTE and WiMax rollouts likely will be delayed by the difficulty raising capital in the current global economic crisis.
"I think 2012-2015 is the new timeframe when the real battle between LTE and WiMax begins," he added.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Xohm is charging $45 a month for WiMax service to notebooks in Baltimore that can deliver download speeds up to 4 Mbits/second. The company charges about $60 for external WiMax cards and $80 for home devices.