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A way around WiMAX?

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I get spammed by the mast debaters all the time, and perhaps I'm jaundiced because of the poor logic they use; but just because I don't think there's any evidence of "wireless smog" causing harm to humans, we can't suddenly dismantle the law requiring planning applications. And - whether the law is justified or not - while it's there, people will oppose masts, and local councils will drag their feet in giving permission.

If it comes to court and someone shows that WiMAX does not need planning permission, we can move forward; till then, it's something I worry about. But that's not something that's likely to bother a small rural community of 2,000 people in central Africa.

Also, the density of cells in rural communities doesn't have to match what you'd need to provide high speed mobile internet to cosmopolitan groups in high density suburbs.

Paradoxically, the problems with mobile hand-off that are plaguing 802.16e (and which led to 802.20 working groups in the IEEE) don't affect voice as badly as high speed data, according to engineers I've talked to in the last couple of weeks. This isn't a statement everybody agrees with, of course. But a brief re-synch between handset and mast may make only a click in the ear during a voice call - and it may disrupt a data call quite badly, my sources insist.

I've written before about the fact that WiMAX uses a lot more power than GSM or WCDMA mobile phones, and pointed to the fact that Intel has sold off its Xscale chip range as a sign that it is focusing on WiMAX applications in the power-rich PC notebook environment, and not expecting to see the technology in phones. But you have to consider that if you cut the data rate from "like broadband" to "like GSM" the battery drain could be enormously reduced.

So although there are real problems with making mobile WiMAX handsets, the problems may be of importance only in the West, and of small consequence to someone in the Philippines or Madagascar or remote parts of Tibet...and, of course, much of China.

In two years, Moore's Law will solve the 802.16e mobile hand-off problem. It is, in theory, solved. It just takes far more computer power than you'd put in a handset in 2007. In the meanwhile, the theory goes, anybody planning to sell WiMAX gear is probably going to cover their setup costs and find out the bugs and glitches profitably, by providing telephone "exchanges" to third world communities.

Expect to hear more before the coming 3GSM Congress in Barcelona, and expect it to be from someone other than Qualcomm or Intel. ®

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