Intel makes big development push on wireless technology

Intel Corp. is working to develop what it calls a “wireless ecosystem” that’s aimed at eventually allowing users with any kind of computing device to tap into any kind of network worldwide.

Executives at Intel’s wireless development group here this week detailed a series of research projects that they described as being essential to the company’s efforts to sell future generations of chips for wireless systems.

Roger Chandler, a market development manager at Intel, said the ongoing work includes development of a “mobile execution environment” that’s being designed to serve as the base level of a wireless software stack. Software developers and wireless technology vendors could layer programming languages, such as the mobile version of Java, as well as operating systems and applications on top of the Intel technology, he said.

Chandler said Intel is also developing IP-based intelligent roaming capabilities to make it easier for mobile users to switch from wireless LANs to cellular WANs without any knowledge of underlying network protocols, something that’s impossible now.

Other wireless initiatives under way at Intel include efforts to automate authentication procedures as mobile users are handed off from one network to another and to develop “location-aware” software that works with the company’s mobile computing silicon, Chandler said.

The ultimate goal of Intel’s wireless strategy is so-called silicon radio, which would incorporate multiple cellular and WLAN standards on chips. But Kari Skoog, an Intel spokeswoman, said the company doesn’t expect to complete that technology for “seven-plus years.” The other pieces of the wireless puzzle are due to begin appearing within the next 18 to 24 months.

Gary Robertson, executive director of global infrastructure at Delphi Corp., a Troy, Mich.-based maker of automotive electronics systems, said Intel’s wireless development plans sound daunting.

“But if anybody can do it and pull it off, it’s Intel,” Robertson said, adding that he could put to good use a system that let him easily switch from a WLAN service to a cellular network while traveling.

Intel’s development efforts “have made it the most important company in wireless, and one of the most aggressive,” said Craig Mathias, an analyst at FarPoint Group in Ashland, Mass. Because of the growing use of WLANs, wireless technology is a logical path for Intel to follow in search of new revenue, Mathias said.

John Rasmussen, vice president of business and corporate development at Milpitas, Calif.-based Gric Communications Inc., which supplies wired and wireless Internet services to mobile users, said Intel is taking an umbrella approach to wireless technology development. Many other vendors “are only looking at bits and pieces,” he said.