TeleCIS Has Portable WiMax Chip

WiMax chipset maker TeleCIS Wireless Inc. is getting ready to ship a chip designed to bring portability to the wireless broadband standard known as fixed WiMax.

The TCW 1620, which supports the 802.16-2004 WiMax standard, runs at under 500 mW, and it is small enough to be used in PC cards or USB devices. Due for shipment to hardware makers by May, the chip could be a stopgap for providing portable WiMax as the industry waits for products based on the official mobile WiMax standard, 802.16e, officials say.

Mobile WiMax, or 802.16e, allows clients to roam between base stations. 802.16-2004, also referred to as 802.16d, doesn't allow roaming. It has been pitched as more of a landline replacement, making it a tough sell in any market that already offers DSL and cable. (See WiMax: Hyped, but not Backed?.)

"The big deal is around 802.16e," says Gabriel Brown, chief analyst at Unstrung Insider. "Ultimately, of the two of them, that will be dominant."

But TeleCIS obviously hopes to take advantage of the delay between the fixed and mobile standards.

"All anyone has talked about today on this particular standard is boxes on houses," says David Sumi, vice president of product marketing and management at TeleCIS. "This allows us to get into the portable market, and we don't have to wait for 802.16e."

TeleCIS has lined up at least three hardware licensees, including MiTAC Technology Corp. , which is developing a USB adapter, Sumi says.

TeleCIS has a point that fixed WiMax could use some novel products. Yes, fifteen fixed WiMax products have already been certified by the WiMAX Forum , with 20 more in line for the certification process, according to Forum officials. However, "for the mobile products, the [standard's] profiles still need to be approved before tests can begin," says Jeff Orr, director of marketing for the WiMax Forum, the industry certification and testing body for WiMax.

But mobile WiMax has received more marketing play than fixed, from industry giants such as Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

Motorola is among the hardware companies that plan to forgo fixed WiMax and wait for mobile WiMax, although products that support the latter are not due to hit the market until late this year at the earliest. Intel has already announced plans for PC cards and embedded chips for notebook computers that support 802.16e.

Intel declines to say whose chips it will use for these products, but the company has invested a lot of money in WiMax chipset maker Beceem Communications Inc. . Beceem has at least $40 million in venture funding, whereas TeleCIS has $18.7 million. (See Intel Invests in Beceem.)

— Carmen Nobel, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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