2005 will see the roll-out of the first wireless broadband services, bringing access speeds fast enough to stream video, according to Intel.
Speaking at the Intel Developers' Forum in San Francisco, Sean Maloney, general manager at the Intel Communications Group, outlined the company's roadmap for wireless broadband development over the coming years and why Intel supports it so strongly.
WiMax, or 802.16, a standard that should be ratified this year, allows broadband services to be broadcast for up to 30 miles using the radio spectrum.
"The first rush to get on the internet was a huge wave that drove demand for semiconductors," Maloney said.
"Intel is going 'foot to the floor' on WiMax. Without the fibre and copper runs going into houses [to drive broadband adoption] the semiconductor industry will be choked. WiMax has the potential to reach millions who are too remote for DSL [digital subscriber line] services."
The specification allows a theoretical maximum speed of 28Mbps, but Maloney said most firms are expected to stick at about 10Mbps.
He added that he expects WiMax services will launch in the first half of 2005 and be accessed by an antenna outside a building. By the second half of the year, kit will be available for consumers to get WiMax with internal aerials, and by 2006 mobile users will access services.
But Lars Godell, senior analyst at Forrester Group, said customers need to be convinced that WiMax can provide carrier-grade performance and cost efficiencies.
"My impression is it will be more expensive than traditional DSL. There's also an issue about spectrum regulation. There are too many other technologies trying to use unregulated bands," he said.
"There's a reason why DSL isn't in some [remote] areas and that's because it's not making operators money. I don't think WiMax will save the European broadband market. There's other interesting alternatives such as two-way satellite already being introduced to rural areas."
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