WiMax flies at F1

With the roar of engines zooming in the background, Intel Corp. and Redline Communications unveiled one of the first Canadian implementations of WiMax technology during last month’s Formula One (F1) race in Montreal.

WiMax is part of the 802.16 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.’s) standard that promises to provide a greater range of wireless broadband access than currently deployed 802.11 Wi-Fi gear.

According to Doug Copper, Canada country manager for Intel Canada Ltd., the F1 race provided an ideal showcase to prove WiMax technology is ready for prime time.

“[The F1 deployment was] a difficult test case,” he said. “If we can make it work here and set it up quickly, we can do it anywhere.”

However, the team at Intel and Redline faced a number of difficult challenges in bringing WiMax connectivity to the Ile Notre Dame, the site of the F1 race. Perhaps the biggest hurdle was coming up with a plan that would allow the partners to distribute wireless so it would cover the entire island.

“The logical solution [was] to use WiMax technology to light up the island and create moveable [Wi-Fi] hotspots so we could put [them] in locations consumers were frequenting and show wireless mobility,” Cooper said.

There were five mobile Wi-Fi hotspots on golf carts that contained battery powered Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) that takes the 802.16 signal and then creates an Ethernet signal.

Another challenge was the lack of large towers at the event where Intel and Redline could deploy the technology. The coverage area of WiMax for the island stretched 2.5 kilometres. To get the coverage required, Cooper said two base stations were needed.

“That also meant we had certain areas that were not line of site but big concrete blocks that blocked out certain areas,” he added.

Keith Doucet, vice-president of marketing and product management for Markham, Ont.-based Redline, said WiMax was the solution to that roadblock.

“The nice thing about WiMax is it can reflect off the ground, buildings, mountains and trees. WiMax just absorbs the reflection and captilizes on those reflective signals and basically anywhere in a non-line of sight situation you will have many opportunities to grab that signal,” said Doucet. WiMax is able to captur reflective signals because it is based on OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) technology.

Cooper said WiMax should prove beneficial in bringing high speed broadband Internet to rural areas of Canada. As well, Doucet stressed the importance of WiMax’s quality of service, as it brings things like disaster recovery, redundancy and real time application enablement that have been absent in other solutions.

By the end of this year, Cooper hopes to bring WiMax inside the home instead of having the antennae installed outside of buildings.

In 2007, he hopes to place the Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 silicon chip into notebooks so there would be no need to place hotspots on things like golf carts.

“You can take that notebook, stand outside and as long as you are in one of [the signal] areas you can connect via WiMax,” Cooper said.

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Related links:

Intel, Nokia team up for mobile WiMax

Intel’s WiMax chip sets sail

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