Intel demonstrated its WiMax broadband wireless capability at the Interop show this week.

The demonstration meant the company successfully deployed wireless high-speed Internet access over a 500-square-mile area around Las Vegas.

The demonstration included live audio and video wireless feeds into the Mandalay Bay conference centre where Interop is being held, as well as 12 miles into the desert, out to a golf course near the city's southern edge and into a mobile home travelling down the Las Vegas strip.

The WiMax signal was broadcast from above the Stratosphere Hotel on the northern edge of the city's downtown area.

Desert winds don't stop the action

Although wind in the desert location caused the audio signal there to break up, Sean Maloney, general manager of Intel's mobility group, said the signals were generally "spectacular," running at speeds of 7Mbit/sec. or greater.

The technology was based on Intel's PRO/Wireless 5116 broadband interface running on hardware from Tel Aviv-based Alvarion, Maloney said. Alvarion provides WiMax-ready hardware called BreezeMAX 3500 for service providers in France and Spain, according to a statement on the Alvarion Web site.

Maloney said the WiMax signal was transmitted from laptops communicating with an Alvarion base station at the Stratosphere. The laptop gear used is still being perfected by a variety of companies, he said.

Such networks are already under development in Korea and Japan, and a downtown WiMax network in Tokyo is expected to be fully operational in six months, Maloney said.

Regulation limitation

Maloney said US engineers have helped make WiMax effective. But other countries have been faster to implement it because they have available wireless spectrum that the US has not provided. Although the Federal Communications Commission understands the need for more spectrum for uses such as WiMax, that spectrum has not yet been released. He said between 60MHz and 100MHz of spectrum is needed, "and more beyond that."

WiMax is likely to serve as an adjunct to more traditional WiFi hot spots, both public and private, and will be used to fill in areas not served by WiFi or to provide back haul connections to conventional networks, Intel officials said. Asked whether US telephone providers might balk at the idea of WiMax proliferation, which could provide cheap voice-over-IP services to a variety of customers, Maloney said that some Asian carriers have added wireless and Wi-Fi to round out their service offerings.

"Service providers are understandably twitchy," he said. The proper response should be to "reach customers in the best way."