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Intel recruits Nokia to tout WiMAX

First real sign of 802.16e/3G integration?

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Intel has persuaded Nokia to join it on its quest to establish WiMAX as the de facto standard for wireless broadband.

The two giants today said they will co-operate "to accelerate the development, adoption and deployment" of the wireless technology.

The agreement centres on the 802.16e specification for mobile WiMAX - the version of the technology that allows client devices to communicate with base-stations while in motion. The 802.16e specification has yet to be ratified as an IEEE standard. It is also incompatible with the ratified 802.16d WiMAX standard for fixed wireless broadband connections.

Intel has pledged to solve that incompatibility in silicon - essentially by building adaptors with two devices on board, one for each WiMAX mode. It has already launched 802.16d silicon.

The 802.16e specification borrows heavily from the mobile phone world, and it's Nokia's expertise in that area that Intel wants to utilise. Nokia is also a proponent of 3G mobile phone networks and their evolution through HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access), both techniques expected to be implemented over the coming years to boost 3G data connection speeds. HSDPA only boosts download speeds, while HSUPA, due a few years further down the line, will increase upload throughput. A number of mobile phone networks are due to begin HSDPA trials this year with a view to a broader roll-out in 2006.

Indeed, there has been talk in the industry that 3G and 802.16e should be aligned into a single specification. Proponents of both technologies have long maintained that the two are complementary rather than competitive, but there's clearly plenty of cross-over between them.

WiMAX's success depends on offering a compelling alternative to existing 3G installations. Right now, it has a clear bandwidth advantage, but it has yet to be rolled out to any significant extent. HSDPA, HSUPA and future extensions have the potential to bring much higher data speeds to existing 3G networks with minimal upgrade costs. Nokia, for one, is working on a data-only version of 3G called I-HSPA, geared toward both mobile and fixed connections, Giuseppe Donagemma, head of Nokia's Radio Networks division, recently told The Register. The question is, can they arrive in time to negate the need for WiMAX? The jury is still out.

Either way, Intel is determined to drive the adoption of WiMAX at any cost, claim wireless industry insiders. The chip giant lost its leadership role in Wi-Fi, and it's resolute that it won't let the same thing happen with WiMAX, they say. ®

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