Intel, Sprint Team Up To Promote WiMAX

WiMAX IEEE 802.16e

The two firms zeroed in on the 2.5GHz spectrum band, which is of substantial interest to Sprint and Nextel Communications. Sprint is in the process of acquiring Nextel.

Intel and Sprint said they will collaborate on technical specs, equipment trials, and interoperability testing.

"Our relationship with Intel will help validate requirements, drive key ecosystem development needs, formulate network strategies and define the potential for advanced wireless services adoption," said Oliver Valente of Sprint in a statement. Valente is the cell phone service provider's chief technology officer and vice president of technology development.

Intel has been the leading promoter of WiMAX, hoping to repeat its successful experience as the leading provider of Wi-Fi chipsets. The key to the Intel-Sprint partnership is the word "mobile," which indicates that the firms view portability as a main feature of their approach to the technology. Doubters of WiMAX maintain the technology will be redundant because it will compete with 3G cell-phone service.

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By focusing on the 2.5GHz spectrum band, the firms are hoping to take advantage of Sprint/Nextel's substantial holdings in that frequency.

"The 2.5GHz frequency is a messy complex band," said wireless specialist Joe Nordgaard, managing director of wireless consultancy Spectral Advantage. "It's going to be very difficult to come out with a common worldwide solution similar to Wi-Fi." Nordgaard noted that the 2.5GHz band in Mexico is used for fixed wireless and cable transmission.

In their announcement, Intel and Sprint said their partnership will seek to promote WiMAX, "which can provide high-capacity wireless broadband coverage and services throughout metro areas and an enriched multimedia user experience." Sprint added that WiMAX is one of a number of areas in wireless interactive media that it is investigating for future use.

Sprint joined the WiMax Forum early this year and has been elected to the Forum's board of directors. The WiMAX Forum has not released final specifications for the technology, although WiMAX providers are promising their equipment will operate well when the final standard is approved.

Nordgaard said the challenge for Intel will be to make a single chipset or a family of chipsets that will operate in the still-uncharted WiMAX spectrum bands. He noted there is still no worldwide uniform power or bandwidth standard for the wireless technology.