RISC World

Hardware World: WiMAX

David Bradforth takes a look at the history, technology and future for the Internet

ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet, was created by the United States Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) to be a testbed for new networking technologies; providing a link between many universities and research centres. The first two sites forming the network were UCLA and the Standford Research Institute, but it rapidly grew across the country.

Fast forward 35 years, and we're at a stage where the Internet has not only taken over the majority of America but with evolution being such as it is over 60% of the world has access to a high-speed Internet connection. Broadband is available now for the price of a dial-up connection. As an example, on my main Internet computer I have an AOL account (for continuity) which I pay £15.99 a month for; and a broadband account for which I also pay £17.99.

The reason for my need is simple - I cannot use the AOL broadband service on a Mac; and the NTL World service is suitably useful to allow me to access multiple POP accounts (for alligatagroup, movieinsider and so on).

Having two accounts complicates issues somewhat as to make use of the service I have to be in my office. What I have a clear need for is a broadband speed Internet service that I can make use of no matter where I am - in the town centre, on a train or wherever. The answer, according to Intel lies in their Rosedale chip aimed at powering the WiMAX revolution.

Introducing Broadband Wireless

At the press launch in April, Intel described a three-stage vision for Wireless Internet access at broadband speeds.

The first stage introduces WiMAX as a means of offering Wireless Broadband to subscribers within a fixed location. For home users this would involve the installation of a booster within the residence; and an additional piece of hardware attached to the computer but the computer still would not work without being fixed to the connection.

Stage two involves the role out of hardware that allows users to roam around their residence with their computer hardware. At this stage, you'll be able to buy at retail packs for self-installation of a wireless broadband connection; much in the way you can for current broadband connections on Wanadoo. Timescales on this were estimated at around 18 months, but in practise it's probably closer to two years.

Stage three extends the specification to cover the wide-area uses for Wireless Broadband. At this stage you should be able to buy portable computers with Wireless Broadband enabled - this will allow you to use a Broadband connection whenever you wish, wherever you wish.

Quite how this will translate to support for RISC OS has yet to be determined, but we can only hope that as the rest of the industry moves forward to a wireless standard we can join in with them.

Dave Bradforth