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WiMAX on World Tour

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on February 11, 2009

Intel just offered its pre-Mobile World Congress update on the state of WiMAX:

Executive Vice President Sean Maloney says WiMAX has become “a global reality.” PC OEMS, Acer, Fujistu, Lenovo, Panasonic and others are offering new Centrino notebooks in the next couple of weeks with WiMAX-capability built right in.

There are 26 models certified with about 100 coming this year. Netbooks also will begin shipping with WiMAX, which Intel says can reach 430 million people this year and 800 million covered by 2010.

The truly mobile version geared for use while actually moving, called 802.16n, is on track and should be rolling out soon (no date given).As countries look to accelerate broadband rollouts in 2009, “WiMAX is ready,” Maloney says.

That’s clearly taking a swipe at the next-generation cellular technology called Long-Term Evolution that major wireless carriers around the world seem to be supporting over WiMAX. The speculation, of course, is that service providers during this economic downturn will slow down research and development of LTE, instead opting to optimize their existing 3G networks.

He says LTE is two to three years behind WiMAX, and that WiMAX will have continued to evolve by the time of the first deployments.

Maloney says South Korea, Russia and Japan are becoming leading centers for WiMAX deployments. He says Clearwire’s Clear network is moving along with more city rollouts coming, but didn’t offer much detail about how committed Intel remains to the project after writing off much of the value of its investment last quarter.

Maloney says 80% of the deployments are overseas, which is why he is emphasizing deployments outside the U.S. “At the end of the day, Clearwire may be a small company, but they have the largest single amount of spectrum in the United States. This game is a long way from over yet,” he says about skepticism that WiMAX will survive in the U.S.

What about competition with 3G? Maloney says its too pricey and inefficient, particularly when more people start using it to watch more video and other high-data applications. But he acknowledges that both will co-exist for a long time.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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