Intel to Release First Chip for Broadband Wireless

As telecommunications carriers around the globe experiment with a wireless replacement for cable and DSL modems, Intel Corp. plans on Monday to release its first chip for the technology, known as Wimax.

The world's largest chip maker sees in Wimax a potential profit source that it hopes will become as popular as its shorter-range cousin, Wi-Fi. Intel also believes it will stimulate computer sales in emerging markets where high-speed Internet access is unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Wimax is not a guaranteed hit, as telecommunication carriers invest in wireless broadband networks based on cellular technology as well as WiFi hot-spots.

Intel's chip, formerly given the code name Rosedale, costs around $45 and is designed to power devices that will receive Wimax signals in users' homes. Major networking equipment makers, including Siemens AG of Germany and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (HWT.UL) of China, will also announce products built on Rosedale, Intel said.

Intel also will highlight as many as 18 current or upcoming trials of Wimax technology around the world, run by the likes of BT Group Plc (BT.L) of Britain. Plans for trials, of various scopes, are also to be announced in India, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa and Russia.

Scott Richardson, general manager of Intel's broadband wireless business, said Wimax equipment was probably too expensive now for wide adoption, but that Intel and networking equipment makers were working to push equipment costs below $200 from the $300 to $500 level.

"It's our vision and our strategy to really drive that price point down," Richardson said.

Unlike Wi-Fi, whose ad hoc networks can be set up by anyone to connect a single house or office, Wimax is engineered to cover an entire city via base stations dispersed around a metropolitan area.

So-called client devices, akin to a cable or DSL modem and built with a Wimax chip like Intel's, then pick the signal up. When connected to a PC, the signal becomes a high-speed wireless connection.

Intel and other Wimax backers are working to ratify a new Wimax standard designed for use in mobile products. That technology is seen as a potential threat to cellular networks, although some consider it a long shot.

Intel's support for Wi-Fi in its Centrino brand of notebook computer chips made the short-range wireless technology into a global standard popular in cafes, homes, offices and other public spaces. Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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Lisa Minter
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