WiMAX is going to be very big for Intel, this year. So to see the promise the technology holds, I went out in the WiMAX car, sponsored by Intel and running off a temporary network built by Clearwire. It was a five-mile drive around town, during which I was connected to the Internet (getting far better speeds than my hotel room).
The car had an in-dash PC running windows that interfaced with the engine components to monitor the car's functions. One of the other useful technologies is something called location-based awareness. For example, if you run low on fuel, the system will show you the gas stations within the radius of a half mile or more, tell you the prices at those stations, and clearly tell you the fuel range you have remaining.
The car also had mapping software and a camera mounted on the dashboard, so the location and route could be streamed back to the Intel booth. During the drive, we listened to a stream of Yahoo's music service. In fact, you could tell when the car hit a dead spot because the music died out, but the stream quickly picked up again. Additionally, a gentleman in the back seat was surfing the Internet on an iPod Touch, while another passenger completed a call using VoIP service Skype.
Intel set up 5 base stations in Las Vegas for the drive route and for the most part, the technology was very impressive. The base stations have a relatively small foot print, about 10 feet x 10 feet and about 60 feet high. The Intel folks told me there were some technological challenges, particularly on Paradise Road, where there are a number of tall buildings.
The company says it's talking about DSL speeds for the initial rollout, although during the ride we reached a point where the connection speed hit about 2Mbps, which is very, very fast. If Sprint and Clearwire (and others) are able to continue building out their networks, and if today's demonstration was any indication, WiMAX holds a great deal of promise.
Editor's note: As part of our extensive coverage of CES, CNBC.com's Brian Clark and Ted Kemp will be at the event and contributing to this special edition of Tech Check.