Intel Throws Weight Behind Clearwire WiMax

Intel may be abandoning some failed efforts at developing technology — including a 4 GHz Pentium 4 and silicon for large-screen, liquid crystal televisions — but the Santa Clara, California-based chip giant is going in the opposite direction on wireless. Today it announced it would throw its weight behind WiMax provider Clearwire.

Intel said it will complement cooperation on the 802.16e WiMax effort, which relies on Clearwire’s NextNet broadband wireless technology, with US$150 million from Intel Capital. The companies are betting on WiMax, which can deliver fixed-location, high-speed wireless connectivity and — it is hoped — wireless broadband with mobile phone-type coverage.

Wireless analysts, however, indicate that the hype around WiMax, which is notyet being deployed by the industry, may be overblown.

“Right now, we don’t have many details, so it’s difficult to tell”Gartner research vice president Phil Redman told TechNewsWorld. “It’s builton the extensive amount of hype in the WiMax area.”

New Global Network

Clearwire holds significant market share in the Americas outside the U.S.

Carriers, equipment makers and solution providers are all moving to lay thefoundation for a next-generation, high-bandwidth network,according to Intel Executive Vice President Sean Maloney, who praised theClearwire team in a statement.

“Their vision, energy and leadership will help us achieve the promisethat WiMax technology offers — widely available, high-speed wirelessconnectivity using extremely high-volume, low-cost technology based on openstandards,” Maloney said.

Intel said the Clearwire deal was the next step in its development of itsWiMax technology, which is based on the upcoming “Rosedale” wirelessbroadband chip, a date for which has yet to be announced.

Hype Trumps All

Gartner’s Redman, however, said that WiMax is little more than talk and”vaporware” at this point.

“I can’t see what this will mean,” he said. “Right now, the hype issuperceding anything else.”

Redman said that after having largely missed out on previous wirelesstechnologies — such as cell phones and Bluetooth — Intel is looking toWiMax to correct its past wireless wrongs.

“This is Intel’s other play trying to be bigger on the wireless radioside,” Redman said.

Silicon Spreading Out

Intel has had to make a couple of embarrassing announcements aroundfailed technology leading up to its WiMax announcement, and the company and itsnew partner acknowledged there is a long road ahead for the wirelesstechnology to meet its potential.

“Intel is a leader in the development of WiMax technologies,” saidClearwire Chairman and CEO Craig McCaw in a statement. “And while we have atremendous amount of work ahead of us, we are encouraged by our early marketdeployments — both at Clearwire and with our friends at NextNet.”

Redman said with much of the broadband market in the U.S. already stakedout by cable and DSL providers, it makes sense for Intel to work withClearwire, which brings markets in Canada and Mexico within reach.

“I think the market is more outside of the U.S., but it may take longerthan expected,” Redman said.

The analyst also said there is uncertainty about the towers, frequencies,and available bandwidth of WiMax. In addition, Redman said WiMax would haveto start out as a fixed wireless solution, leaving the more mobile marketand true benefits “a couple of years out in the future.”

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