Intel expects wider WiMAX deployment

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Mar 10, 2010 - Page 12

Intel Corp, the world’s largest chipmaker, expects greater momentum for WiMAX, or worldwide interoperability for microwave access, deployment in the Asia-Pacific region this year.

At present, there are more than 500 WiMAX deployment projects in 147 countries and 11 PC original equipment manufacturers that have notebook products incorporating WiMAX solutions certified for operator networks, said Rama Shukla, vice president of Intel Architecture Group.

“Taiwanese device makers play a pivotal role in the development of WiMAX,” he told a press briefing yesterday.

WiMAX notebooks only made their debut late last year and Intel said it would take time for the interoperability glitches among different networks to be resolved and before the technology gains wider user adoption.

However, the technology will get a bigger push when more laptops featuring WiMAX hit store shelves in the second half of the year, Shukla said.

By the end of the year, as many as 10 million people around the world are forecast to subscribe to WiMAX services — the fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband technology, the company said.

Though the number is not significant during the first year of rollout, exponential growth would come over the next five years, Shukla said.

Four of the six Taiwanese WiMAX licensees — Vmax Telecom Co (威邁思), First Global Mobile Corp (全球一動), Tatung Co (大同) and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信) — have rolled out their respective services since late last year.

Vee Telecom Multimedia Co (威達超舜) and International Telecom Corp (大眾電信) are mandated to introduce WiMAX services within six months after receiving their official licenses this month.

Vmax said 500 M-Taxi (大都會衛星) cabs offering the 4G service were already operating in Taipei.

These vehicles have a 7-inch mobile Internet device located at the back of the front seat, allowing wireless access to the Internet for browsing, playing games, watching TV, receiving text messages or vendor promotions.

There will be 6,000 WiMAX-­enabled cabs by the end of the year, Vmax president Liu Chao-kai (劉兆凱) said.

Despite operators and Intel putting their bet on WiMAX, the uptake in Taiwan may not be as quick as expected, an analyst said.

“It is tough to push WiMAX here as 3.5G is already the mainstream,” said Dickie Chang (張祐菖), a PC solutions analyst at International Data Corp Taiwan.

The WiMAX module would raise notebook costs by US$100, and consumers might not want to shoulder the extra costs, he said.

Intel hopes clients will ditch their laptops for those that come with WiMAX, but customer acceptance will depend on how well operators package these services, he said.