Wireless Tech to be Deployed For Katrina

By MATTHEW FORDAHL, AP Technology Writer

A high-speed wireless networking technology that's still being tested around the world will be deployed at an evacuation shelter and other spots on the U.S. Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The technology called WiMax will bring the Internet to remote areas where the existing infrastructure has been destroyed or never existed. The network will be used for Internet telephone service and information exchange.

Intel Corp., a major WiMax supporter and maker of chips, shipped equipment Thursday to San Antonio's decommissioned Kelly Air Force Base where thousands of evacuees are being taken. The gear is expected to arrive on Friday.

A group of wireless Internet providers called Part-15.org is working with the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy Wi-Fi hotspots at the shelter and areas hit by the storm.

But those hotspots need to connect to the wider Internet to be most useful -- and that's where WiMax comes into play, said Nigel Ballard, a manager Intel's state and local government unit.

"They were missing a very vital -- and some would say expensive -- piece of the jigsaw, and that's the ability to put up a wireless solution to actually get the signal in and out of a fairly substantial Air Force base," he said.

The WiMax equipment will be able to handle carry signals about 15 miles to what's known as a Point of Presence on the Internet. The bandwidth both upstream and downstream is expected to be about 45 megabits per second -- 30 times the speed of a standard 1.5 megabit per second DSL connection.

Similar efforts involving WiMax are underway in the disaster area as well, and Intel has donated equipment for use in other parts of the Gulf Coast.

WiMax, short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, has been mentioned as a possible alternative to cable modem and Digital Subscriber Line services offered by cable and telephone companies. It's also touted as a tool to connect emerging markets to the Internet.

But its potential in the United States has been clouded by spectrum questions. The 3.5-gigahertz band that's being used in tests elsewhere has been reserved for the military in the U.S. In addition, no WiMax equipment has been certified for compliance with the WiMax standard that was set just last year.

For the disaster recovery, the airwaves are not a problem, Ballard said. The Federal Communications Commission granted an emergency license for the spectrum use on Thursday.

On the Net: Part-15.org:

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Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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