Intel Downplays U.S. WiMax Adoption - InformationWeek

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Intel Downplays U.S. WiMax Adoption

Questions arise about the long-term viability of WiMax in the United States as it gears up for competition with LTE, a standard focused on upgrading the UMTS cellular network.

Intel on Wednesday shifted focus of WiMax deployments to countries outside of the United States, where the wireless broadband technology has encountered obstacles that have slowed adoption.

With the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, less than a week away, Intel arranged a teleconference with reporters to provide "news and progress" on WiMax deployments. While saying little that was new, company executives acknowledged that most of the action is outside the United States.

Nations such as Japan, India, Russia, South Korea, and countries in Europe and Africa are moving aggressively to deploy the fourth-generation wireless communication and data service, according to Sean Maloney, executive VP and chief sales and marketing officer for Intel. Maloney stressed that WiMax and the deployment of broadband for accessing the Internet in general is a "global issue."

"It's not about the United States," he said. And because of the many WiMax projects under way worldwide, "I'm describing to you a technology that has already taken off."

Even in the United States, he advised industry watchers to take a wait-and-see position. "This game is a long ways from being over," Maloney said.

While few people are digging WiMax's grave in the United States, adoption has certainly had problems. Nortel Networks, which filed for bankruptcy protection last month, dropped its mobile WiMax business and its partnership with base station provider Alvarion. Nortel said it would focus its mobile wireless effort on its Long Term Evolution technology, or LTE, instead.

The decision raised questions about the long-term viability of WiMax in the United States as it gears up for competition with LTE, a standard focused on upgrading the UMTS cellular network into a fourth-generation mobile communications technology. In essence, LTE would turn UMTS into a wireless broadband Internet system with voice and other services built on top.

In addition, in recent weeks, Intel, Google, and Time Warner have all had to write down their losses from their investments in Clearwire, which is deploying a nationwide WiMax network in the United States. In Intel's case, the chipmaker wrote off a $1 billion net loss in its equity investment in Clearwire, which is at the early stage of WiMax deployments and has gotten good reviews so far for its work in Baltimore and Portland, Ore.

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