Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Tuesday, 3 June 2008 09:15 UK

Intel seeks wireless unification

Video being shot on mobile, Getty
Mobile networks are being outstripped by fixed lines

The two competing 4G wireless systems, Wimax and Long Term Evolution (LTE), should be united, according to Intel.

Intel is the biggest supporter of Wimax, which offers high-speed, long-range wireless connections designed for the mobile net.

"In our view they ought to be harmonised," said Sean Maloney, head of sales and marketing at Intel.

LTE is a technology based on existing mobile networks and has broad support from many mobile bodies.

Fast start

Mr Maloney's comments are likely to be welcomed by the mobile industry, which fears the impact two rival standards could have on the market.

Earlier this year, Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin said he believed the two standards could be brought together.

LTE supporters
LG Electronics
China Mobile
Telecom Italia

LTE is proving popular with handset manufacturers and mobile carriers because it is seen as an evolution to existing 3G networks.

By contrast, Wimax has won favour in the computer industry because its roots lie with wi-fi.

Both technologies have supporters who are in the two camps.

For instance Vodafone is currently trialling Wimax in Greece and Malta and its US subsidiary Verizon is trying out LTE.

The two systems are non-line of sight, and offer "optimal" broadband performance in a cell network between three and five kilometres in size.

LTE is also expected to offer higher speeds than Wimax, peaking at 100 Mbps download and 50 Mbps uploads.

Mr Maloney said the two technologies were "broadly similar... about 80% similar".

"The main difference is that Wimax is a couple of years ahead," he said.

Motorola has already said that 85% of the work and technology for Wimax equipment will be re-used in its designs for LTE equipment.

Mr Maloney said that customers would be "confused" by two competing 4G technologies.

Nokia N810 wimax edition, Nokia
Nokia is backing both the Wimax and LTE technologies
"We would much prefer to see over a period of time that it looked to a global consumer that simply high-speed bandwidth was available."

He said Intel was "actively looking" at harmonisation.

"LTE is still a little way away; as it starts to show up we will be looking to see how we can harmonise with it," he added.

It was technically possible that the chipset Intel is introducing later this year to cover wi-fi and Wimax, could also be used for LTE, he said.

"We don't have any plans to do that yet," added Mr Maloney. "It would certainly be a nice long term goal."

Falling behind

Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, said harmonisation was a laudable goal.

"We cannot keep having this situation where different parts of the world have different technologies," he said.

"Wide area broadband networks are critical," said Mr Wood. "We know there's an insatiable appetite for those speeds."

While data speeds on mobile networks were accelerating there was a danger they could fall behind again, said Mr Wood.

"The gap will open up again with fixed line networks," he said, "though some of that can be made up with HSDPA and HSUPA."

LTE is not expected to reach mass adoption until 2012 while the first Wimax networks have already been rolled out in the US and Japan.

Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, said 10 million people would be using Wimax by the end of 2008, rising to "hundreds of millions two years after that".

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