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Intel teams with Chinese firm on WiMax

Chinese telecom equipment giant ZTE will use Intel's WiMax chips in its development plans.

Intel and Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE will work together to build wireless broadband networks using WiMax technology, the companies said Wednesday.

ZTE will use Intel's WiMax-capable chips, code-named Rosedale, in its telecom equipment and infrastructure. ZTE plans to build wireless broadband networks throughout China, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, with field trials to begin in mid-2006.

WiMax, the 802.16 standard, uses radio spectrum to blanket large areas with data at high speeds. WiMax is similar to the more commonly known Wi-Fi standard in that it lets people access the Internet at broadband speeds. But Wi-Fi is slower, and its coverage area is much smaller than WiMax, requiring many many "hot spots" to cover a large metropolitan area.

While still in its infancy, WiMax is considered a potentially disruptive force against cable companies and the Baby Bell phone giants, the dominant providers of broadband in the United States. Americans are swapping out their slower dial-up lines for broadband lines that can be as much as 100 times faster, but more expensive. Some say the resulting dominance--firms in the two industries have exclusive agreements to provide cable or local phone service in their markets--isn't good for consumers.

Many companies around the world are beginning to build WiMax networks, but the technology won't be ready for consumer use until 2006, according to industry analysts.

In the meantime, some of tech and telecom's biggest players are taking a keen interest in WiMax. Besides Intel, Cisco, AT&T, Sprint, Nortel Networks, Fujitsu Microelectronics and Samsung, to name a few, are supporting 802.16 as a standard.