WiMax support currently is an option with Intel’s Centrino 2 chip package for laptops, but Intel’s WiMax chipset only supports the version of the technology that uses 2.5GHz spectrum. This version of WiMax is being rolled out in the U.S., where operator Clearwire plans to launch services in three cities before the end of this year.
“For 2009, we will start supporting other markets outside of the U.S., at 2.5GHz and in other spectrum profiles,” said Garth Collier, general manager of WiMax at Intel Asia-Pacific.
While Collier did not specify the additional WiMax profiles Intel plans to support next year, there are only three supported by the WiMax Forum’s interoperability testing: 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz. Since Intel already supports 2.5GHz, Collier’s reference to support for multiple additional profiles suggests the chip maker will add support for the remaining 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz profiles to its product lineup.
Collier’s comments offer the first glimpse into Intel’s future WiMax product plans. Until now, the company has only said it plans to add support for 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz at a future date, without specifying when that might happen.
Asked about the official ambiguity that surrounds release dates for WiMax chipsets that support 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz, Collier suggested a 2009 release for such a product may not be set in stone.
“We haven’t given out a definite date,” Collier said. “It’s one of those chicken and egg situations, it’s dependent on the development of networks, how much coverage they have [and] what the underlying demand is.”
By those metrics, the release of 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz chipsets should happen sooner rather than later. Some of the world’s largest commercial WiMax networks are in South Korea, which uses the 2.3GHz profile, and Pakistan, which uses 3.5Ghz spectrum.
If Intel does plan to release products that support additional WiMax profiles in 2009, such an announcement could be made at Intel Developer Forum conference, which is being held in San Francisco this week.