Intel completes design of its WiMax Connection 2300 chipset

Intel is moving closer to its vision of laptops and other mobile devices supporting 'the best connection you can find' courtesy of WiMax, the wireless metropolitan area network technology.

The chip giant has announced completion of designs for its first mobile WiMax baseband chip. Combined with its previously announced single-chip, multi-band WiMax/Wi-Fi radio, the pair will create the Intel WiMax Connection 2300 chipset.

The chipset design was demonstrated by Sean Maloney, Intel's president and chief sales and marketing officer, during his keynote at the 3G World Congress and Mobility Marketplace in Hong Kong.

"Intel continues to drive innovation in mobile broadband access by eliminating the seams that prevent ubiquitous wireless connectivity," he said.

"The Intel WiMax Connection 2300 will help speed the deployment of mobile WiMax, and accelerate the availability of a new wave of 'personal broadband' laptops and mobile devices that deliver the real Internet."

This concept of seamless roaming - adjusting connections as best appropriate - has to enable fast handoffs, i.e. 'where you make a connection before you break a connection'. This is the sort of functionality that will be provided by the WiMax chipsets and earn their place within the ever shrink space available within mobile devices.

Maloney was using a Centrino Duo-based laptop that supported WiMax (IEEE 802.16e-2005), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), and high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) 3G capabilities.

He claimed that the demo highlighted the capability of WiMax for handling demanding, content-rich applications without interference from other wireless technologies residing on the same system.

The company states that for the first time it has incorporated multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) functionality into the new baseband chip. This is to improve the signal quality and throughput of wireless comms. The baseband chip also employs the same software for WiMax and Wi-Fi systems. This, it states, helps ensure a unified management for connectivity.

Pat Gelsinger, co-general manager of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, first highlighted the new MIMO techniques for maximizing the throughput of wireless comms at IDF Fall 2003. "Our goal," said Gelsinger at the time, "is to drive MIMO into every product we build."

It was a year later, in 2004, that Intel began revealing details about its future implementation of the 802.16d/e wireless networking standard.

Jim Johnson, vice president of Intel's Wireless Networking Group, outlined at the Fall IDF how WiMax was crucial to Intel's plans for wireless connectivity, playing its part in getting 'the best connection you can find'.

Full mobility support - with the incorporation of WiMax chips into mobile devices - was scheduled for 2007. It announced its first generation system on a chip design for WiMax systems, in the form of the Rosedale chip.

This latest announcement, however, clarifies that at the moment Intel only has plans to sample both card and module forms by late 2007.

WiMax supports theoretical transfer rates of 70Mbit/sec within a range of 30 miles (50km).

In practice, Johnson stated, the rate will vary according to geographic conditions. In rural areas, 8/10MBits/sec may be achieved within a 10 mile radius. In the more difficult built-up urban areas, throughput could drop to 1-10MBit/sec within a 2-3 mile radius.

Future demand for WiMax may also come from surprising quarters. As reported today, the increasing power demands of mobile networks could pressure operators into re-evaluating their broadband offerings, to ensure they can deliver services more cost effectively.

Wi-Max could be the saviour behind operators' current dilemma of spiraling power consumption and associated costs, believes ABI Research.

"Sprint has nominated WiMAX as its 4G technology of choice, while T-Mobile is moving toward integration of its Wi-Fi hotspot and cellular networks," says ABI's study.

"Others, such as Vodafone, with businesses based solely on cellular, may find themselves at a real disadvantage unless they act fast to consider other technologies."