WiMAX Key to Intel's Mobility Strategy

A wave of innovation is sweeping the computer industry into a new era of mobility, says Sean Maloney, EVP and GM of the Intel Mobility Group. In fact, about a third of all the processors and transistors being produced today "end up being carried around by somebody."

"Human beings are inherently mobile," Maloney says, "and computing will be too."

Speaking to attendees at the Intel Developer Forum this March in San Francisco, Maloney said that the key to this new mobile kingdom is WiMAX. Think of the IEEE 802.116 wireless broadband standard as Wi-Fi on steroids. Wi-Fi provides a few hundred square feet of coverage; WiMAX networks extend over several square miles. And in the new mobile era, Maloney says, "coverage is king."

"That's the first rule of mobility," he said. "Wi-Fi is really cool, but the trouble is, when you walk outside the hot-spot location and lose the connection, it's a disappointing experience. Signal range and reach are probably more important than the bandwidth of the connection."

Intel is betting big on WiMAX as the next big wireless thing. In January of last year, the Santa Clara, CA-based chipmaker announced its intention to work with the industry to drive down the cost and increase the availability of both 802.11-based wireless local area networks (WLANs) and WiMAX-based wireless metropolitan area networks (WMANs).

Malone sees the wireless service provider and telecommunication equipment industries rallying around WiMAX because it also provides cheaper last-mile connectivity than digital subscriber lines and cable broadband. That lower cost means that WiMAX can serve parts of the world where laying fiber is an expensive proposition.

Maloney reaffirmed his company's commitment to establishing WiMAX as a global wireless standard, and he cited some progress toward that goal: Membership in the WiMAX Forum, the non-profit group that facilitates deployment of and compatibility with the standard, has grown from 46 members a year ago to 244 today. He also pointed to evidence of increased carrier interest in the standard: the number of WiMAX carrier trials has grown from 2 to 15, most of which are using Intel's Rosedale chip with WiMAX-embedded technologies.

In his IDF-opening keynote, out-going Intel CEO Craig Barrett predicted that citywide WiMAX systems would begin appearing by the end of this year. "I think WiMAX is going to be a disruptive technology that's going to change the way we think of mobile connectivity," he said.

During his presentation, Maloney gave his audience a peek at the next-generation Centrino platform, code-named Napa. The first products to ship under Napa will be Intel's 65-nanometer, dual-core Pentium M processor, code-named Yonah. The processor will include several new technologies, including Intel Digital Media Boost, for rich digital multimedia content creation; Intel Advanced Thermal Manager, for enhanced thermal monitoring, accuracy, and responsiveness; and Intel Dynamic Power Coordination, for automatic adjustment of performance and power between the two processing cores.

Maloney also previewed a new cell phone platform, code-named Hermon, which the company expects to ship later this year. Hermon comprises an applications processor, communications chip for 3G networks, and flash memory integrated onto a single die. Maloney showed off the first Hermon-based, Intel-designed smart phone, which was built for Intel by contract manufacturer Asustek Computer. Intel expects the handset to be available later this year from other manufacturers.

For more information on WiMAX, visit the WiMAX Forum Web site at

About the Author

John Webster ([email protected]) is the PeopleSoft programs director at Dakota State University.