Chip giant Intel, a major backer of the movement to provide mobile WiMax wireless broadband to Internet users around the world, expects the next major release of the technology to be deployed starting in 2012, an executive said Tuesday.
“Standards work will be completed by the end of this year,” said Rama Shukla, a vice president and director of the WiMax program office at Intel, during a news conference in Taipei.
The new Mobile WiMax standard, 802.16m, will replace 802.16e and offer far faster download and upload speeds. The new technology will provide users 170M bps (bits per second) download speed and 90M bps upload speeds, according to Intel data, and will be fully backward compatible with 802.16e. Users will be able to use the service even while traveling at speeds up to 350 kilometers per hour, he said.
Current WiMax network operators are offering service packages for 16Mbps download and 4Mbps upload on networks using 802.16e technology.
Shukla said that this year, estimates for the number of global WiMax subscribers range from around 6 million to 10 million, led by users in the U.S., Russia and Japan. Most of those users are turning to mobile WiMax for laptop computer use. “We see very strong momentum [for WiMax] in notebook PCs today,” he said.
The earlier 802.16d version of WiMax is not called mobile WiMax because it was made for devices in fixed locations, not devices on the move such as smartphones in hand or laptops inside a moving train.
WiMax is competing with mobile phone-based wireless standards such as HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) and LTE (long term evolution) for wireless data services. WiMax is currently at a disadvantage because networks are just now being rolled out in many places and do not yet cover a significant part of the globe, unlike mobile phone networks, which cover much of the world’s population.
In Taiwan, for example, WiMax wireless service provider Vmax Telecom covers Taipei, but its network does not extend outside the capital city. Meantime, Chunghwa Telecom, the island’s largest mobile phone service provider, offers HSPA throughout Taiwan. WiMax promises download and upload speeds significantly faster than those on a mobile phone network in the future, but the mobile phone industry is also hard at work boosting performance to maintain its edge.