Apr. 9-- A coalition of high-tech companies including Intel Corp. and Nokia is backing a technology designed to bring wireless broadband access to homes and businesses around the world.
One base station using the technology, known as 802.16a, could beam Internet data at T-1 speeds to scores of businesses. And the same base station could also serve hundreds of homes with DSL-type Internet service, its backers say.
Another benefit of the technology is that it doesn't require line-of-sight, meaning its signals aren't obstructed by tall buildings or leafy trees.
If broadly adopted, 802.16a could bring broadband connections to rural areas and neighborhoods not served by a phone company's DSL service or a cable TV company's cable-modem technology, its backers say. The first such products are expected to hit the market in the second half of 2004.
So-called fixed-base wireless isn't new. But it hasn't been widely deployed because of some technical limitations and the fact that not all the technologies are compatible.
Big companies have been reluctant to adopt fixed-base wireless because they don't want to be dependent on the proprietary technology of a single equipment provider, said Daryl Schoolar, an analyst with In-Stat MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The firms that join the nonprofit WiMAX coalition to promote 802.16a want to set technical standards that would ensure that all their gear works well together. They point to the Wi-Fi Alliance, which set standards for wireless technology now found in many home networks and in laptop computers.
The more companies that make compatible gear, the lower the price will be, thus attracting more users, said Margaret LaBrecque, an Intel executive and president of WiMAX.
LaBrecque would not say whether Intel plans to develop chips for use in 802.16a gear. "It's too soon to discuss products or business plans we may or may not have," LaBrecque said.
But Intel is already heavily invested in producing Wi-Fi products, with its new Centrino family of chips as the centerpiece of a high-profile marketing campaign expected to cost several hundred million dollars.