Intel, Samsung join to accelerate WiMax 2 development

Companies try to push for faster adoption of new WiMax standard, which boosts faster data transfers

Intel late on Sunday said it was collaborating with companies including Samsung and Motorola to develop the next generation of WiMax mobile broadband technology, which will provide a speed boost in 4G wireless data transfers.

The companies have joined a new group, the WiMax 2 Collaboration Initiative, which aims to accelerate the development of standards and devices surrounding WiMax 2 technology, the companies said in a joint press release. The group will collaborate with the WiMax Forum, an industry organization that certifies and promotes WiMax products.

WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless technology that provides fast data-transfer rates over a wider area than Wi-Fi. The technology is finding adoption in Western European and developing countries, and is available in the U.S. through companies like Sprint and Clearwire. The new standard will provide transfer rates of more than 300M bps (bits per second) at peak rates.

Typical transfer rates on current WiMax networks could be between 4M bps to 6M bps for downloads and 1M bps to 2M bps for uploads, but could scale higher depending on the distance from a tower, Intel has said.

The new WiMax 2 specification is built on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.16m standard, which includes advanced on-air capabilities compared to the current WiMax deployments based on the 802.16e standard, the companies said. The 802.16m standard will be backward-compatible with previous standards and is expected to be completed by the second half of this year, the companies said.

There is increasing demand for rich-media applications on mobile devices, and the improvements will help WiMax operators provide the necessary bandwidth, the companies said. The improvements in WiMax 2 include lower latency and increased VOIP (voice-over-Internet-protocol) capacity.

Users on Clearwire's WiMax network are consuming an average of 7GB of data per month, said Mike Sievert, chief commercial officer at Clearwire, in the statement. The improvements will be a step forward to meet increased data consumption, he said.

A number of WiMax devices are already available in the market. HTC in March released the EVO 4G smartphone, which includes WiMax capabilities. Intel has also invested a lot in the technology, and offers a chipset for laptops to connect to WiMax networks. But many wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon support the development of LTE (Long-Term Evolution), an upcoming 4G technology that could compete with WiMax. Intel hasn't said if it would support LTE, but is keeping its options open, a company executive said earlier this year.

The organizations joining the WiMax 2 Collaboration Initiative include Alvarion, Beceem, GCT Semiconductor, Sequans, XRONet and ZTE and Taiwanese research organization, ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute).

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