Rogers test drives WiMax connectivity

SAN FRANCISCO – Rogers Communications Inc. made a cameo appearance at Intel’s Developer Forum this week when it demonstrated what executives called the first ever WiMax connection in Canada.

As part of a keynote presentation

hosted Tuesday afternoon by Sean Maloney, executive vice-president for Intel’s mobility group, hundreds of developers were shown a live video feed from a cottage on Lake Rosseau in the Muskoka area north of Toronto featuring David Robinson, Rogers’s vice-president of business implementation. Rogers set up the connection through Redline Communication’s RedMax equipment, which incorporates the Intel PRO/Wireless 5116 WiMax modem silicon.

WiMax refers to a protocol based on the 802.16 standard that allows mobile devices to connect at broadband speeds and over a longer distance than Wi-Fi, which are usually confined to short-range areas called hotspots. Intel has been working on a system-on-a-chip design supporting WiMax code-named Rosedale that was discussed at last year’s IDF.

In his brief video conversation with Maloney, Robinson called wireless broadband the next stage of high-speed Internet access, adding that Rogers has high hopes for WiMax. “It will allow (us) to offer access in underserved parts of the country, both in and out of Rogers Cable areas,” he said.

Other WiMax connections demonstrated during the keynote included a cargo ship in the Netherlands, a school in Argentina and an Intel factory in China. Maloney said it was important that WiMax development follow the same open standards-based approach that has allowed Wi-Fi access to thrive in major metropolitan areas.

Intel also used IDF to announce an extension of its mobility and security partnership with Cisco, which will see the two firms collaborate on what executives called the Business Class Wireless Suite. The software will be designed to make it easier to set up wireless networks using Intel-powered laptops, said Charles Giancarlo, chief development officer at Cisco.

“We could try to make it easy to use inside the network, but if it’s not easy to use on the notebook, we’re not getting anywhere,” Giancarlo said.

Maloney said Intel and Cisco will be working on enhanced voice-over-IP over Wi-Fi, as well as optimal access point selection, which he described as a “handshake guarantee” that the wireless connection a mobile system finds will have the appropriate bandwidth to run a user’s applications effectively.

“Most of the time your device is searching for the closest connection, but it’s not necessarily the strongest connection,” Maloney said, adding that mobile users need to make better use of broadband. “Your notebook is multi-tasking, whether you like it or not.”

Intel’s next-generation mobile processors will be grouped under a platform called Napa, and will include energy-saving features that tie in with the “performance per watt” theme that is running through this year’s IDF. Napa will include a dual-core processor code-named Yonah, for example, that will consume much less power than its predecessor.

Other components of Napa include a version of its 945 Express chipset that will offer enhanced 3D graphics capabilities. On the IDF exhibit floor, meanwhile, Canada’s ATI Graphics is quietly telling customers that it will be allowing its CrossFire boards will work with Intel’s Express 945 chip set, marking the first time the Toronto-based firm has offered interoperability with a third-party board.

“We wanted to reach a broader market. It hasn’t been formally announced yet,” said ATI spokeswoman Carrie Maynard, who added that while the company’s roadmap is not closely tied to Intel’s mobile strategy,“we’re always watching what they do.”

IDF continues through Thursday.

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