TI remains lukewarem about WiMax broadband delivery

Despite all the hype surrounding WiMax, chip maker Texas Instruments remains unconvinced that the technology will revolutionise...

Despite all the hype surrounding WiMax, chip maker Texas Instruments remains unconvinced that the technology will revolutionise the way that broadband internet services are delivered to homes and offices, according to a company executive.

"I'm not totally convinced that from the standpoint of providing broadband to the home that WiMax is going to be very effective," said Joseph Crupi, vice-president of TI's Broadband Communications Group.

Crupi is sceptical of plans to put the technology into phones and notebooks, citing as an example the Broadband Wireless Internet Forum (BWIF), an industry group that several years ago advocated the adoption of a different fixed-wireless technology for broadband internet access.

While BWIF made many of the same promises now being made about WiMax, the technology was never deployed commercially and the broadband internet access market has since come to be dominated by DSL and cable.

Crupi's doubts about the potential of the fixed-wireless version of WiMax as an alternative to DSL have not been eased by operators, which have so far not committed to deploying WiMax on a scale that would justify the investments needed for TI to offer products based on the technology. "A million-unit trial to us is not a lot of money, so we're looking for someone to really step up," Crupi said.

China Telecom,China's largest broadband internet provider, will primarily rely on DSL to provide broadband access to its customers, said Tian Hong, deputy general manager of its Network Planning Division.

Nevertheless, Intel has pushed WiMax as an alternative to broadband over DSL in China.

In June, the company announced an agreement to try WiMax-based internet services in two Chinese cities, Dalian and Chengdu, although it did not release details of when the trials are expected to begin, how many users would be involved, or which operators would participate.

The announcement was made based on agreements signed with local authorities in these cities and does not involve operators or officials at the national level, said Sean Maloney, the executive vice-president and general manager of Intel's Communications Group.

While Crupi thinks there is little potential in WiMax as a way of providing broadband internet access to homes, he sees promise in the mobile version of the technology, which will let users log on to internet services provided by a mobile operator from any location within a large area, such as a city, using a notebook, phone or PDA.

"The key issue is for WiMax to rationalise itself with cellular standards somehow, and I think if that works out it will be fairly big," Crupi said.

Despite Intel's enthusiasm for WiMax as a means of providing broadband internet access to homes and offices, Crupi thinks the company is more focused on the mobile version of WiMax. "I don't underestimate Intel and what they can do with their marketing power, but I think their play will be more on the portability side," he said.

Sumner Lemon writes for IDG News Service

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