Another Test For WiMAX

Sprint and Intel are teaming on products and services based on the emerging 802.16e WiMAX (define) wireless broadband specification, the companies announced today.

The wireless carrier and the chipmaker will hammer out technical standards, test equipment and check interoperability with other network components in hopes of laying the groundwork for new devices and services.

John Polivka, a spokesman for Overland, Kan.-based Sprint, said it’s too soon to say when or where trials will be held.

“Other relationships important to trial activity are in the process of being put into place,” he told “This action unites two premium brands in advancing standards development to ultimately meet market needs.”

WiMAX supports very high bit rates in uploading and downloading from a base station up to a distance of 30 miles. Advocates say it could bring super high-speed Internet access, VoIP and other services to rural areas, office parks and school campuses at a cheaper price than traditional methods.

Some independent providers are already doing this with networks that contain several WiMAX specifications. TowerStream, for example, activated its service in San Francisco this week.

In addition, WiMAX systems could be used as a piece of a service provider’s infrastructure, backhauling traffic from carriers’ main networks to alleviate congestion and trim costs.

But others, including Cisco CTO Charlie Giancarlo, are skeptical, saying that WiMAX lacks a compelling application and risks being overshadowed by alternate wireless broadband technologies.

It’s unclear how WiMAX will fit into the Sprint’s plans, but Polivka said it could complement other wireless technologies, such as third-generation voice and data, Wi-Fi and Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO).

Intel has been active in developing WiMAX standards. Last month, the Santa Clara, Calif., company shipped its first-ever processor that taps into the WiMAX specification.

The opportunity for 802.16 equipment is forecast to reach a value of approximately $1 billion in 2008, according to a recent study by Visant Strategies. The report found that last-mile access will be the first application for 802.16a, but that mobility will soon follow via 802.16e.

At the CTIA tradeshow in March, a number of network equipment makers, device manufacturers and carriers announced that they had devoted R&D dollars to WiMAX projects.

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