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Intel builds Internet city on Amazon island

The Amazon jungle is a daunting place to live, but it's a lot easier to get broadband now. Photos: WiMax in the Amazon Basin

Can WiMax conquer the jungle? An early trial at Intel shows it's possible.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker Intel, in conjunction with Brazilian schools and companies, has brought easily accessible broadband to Parintins, an isolated city of 114,000 on an island in the Amazon Basin.

A tower for WiMax, a long-range wireless technology, was set up on the island and connects two schools, a hospital, a community center and a university to a broadband network. To date, the Internet had been accessed primarily with dial-up connections, said Ricardo Carreon, regional director of Intel Latin America. The only broadband options were microwave or satellite. Intel Chairman Craig Barrett came to the city for the formal unveiling of the networks.

The new WiMax network could help eliminate some of the problems that come with living deep in Brazil's interior. The hospital, for instance, will use the link for telemedicine and remote diagnostics. The city only has one hospital and 32 doctors.

"Most likely, if you need a specialist you need to go to Manaus (a 15-hour boat ride away) or Sao Paolo," said Carreon.

Intel estimates that the new network will serve about 1,500 students and 10,000 community members.

Emerging markets are one of the big growth opportunities for PC and technology companies, and Brazil is seen as one of the most promising countries. The Brazilian economy is growing rapidly, and the government has shown strong interest in growing a local tech industry.

Although previous attempts to get PCs adopted broadly have failed in Brazil , Intel and others have continued to tweak their products and offerings to better suit the market in Brazil and other nations.

The Parintins project also helps Intel to highlight WiMax, which it has long promoted. In established nations, most of the interest in WiMax centers on deploying the standard to replace Wi-Fi. In emerging markets, WiMax is being considered as a way to avoid digging trenches and laying cable in hostile environments and poorer nations.