There's a new networking protocol on the block. Intel and Alvarion, a wireless broadband networking infrastructure provider, are among several firms collaborating on interchangeable equipment that uses the 802.16a protocol for wireless broadband access. This standard supports data broadcasts of 70Mbps for 30 miles, rather than the 300 feet of 802.11 protocols.
Interoperability among brands could spell lower equipment costs, making last-mile WiMAX connections cheaper than cable and DSL solutions, says Intel marketing manager Margaret LaBrecque. WiMAX equipment could cost less than a quarter of current technology, with prices starting under $2,000.
That may inspire ISPs and new wireless entrepreneurs to extend fast data and voice to parts of the country underserved by wire-line solutions, says LaBrecque, who is also president of the WiMAX Forum, the nonprofit group overseeing brand interoperability. WiMAX could also be used for broadband links between 802.11b, .11g and .11a networks in the buildings of a business campus or among field offices and retail stores.
The WiMAX Forum expects most 802.16a hardware to ship in the second half of 2004.