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Aiming to promote the adoption of the broadband wireless technology known as WiMax, Intel Corp. has teamed with Clearwire Corp.—a company best known for its founder and CEO, Craig McCaw.

Clearwire plans to deploy WiMax networks using Intel silicon, company officials said late last month.

Intel, for its part, is investing a significant amount of money in Clearwire. Officials declined to disclose specific financial terms but said it is part of the Intel Capital division’s plan to invest $150 million in wireless technologies.

So far, Clearwire, which launched in June, offers fixed broadband wireless services in Jacksonville, Fla., based on a proprietary IP-based technology from NextNet Wireless Inc., a Clearwire subsidiary. McCaw acknowledged that fixed wireless efforts have faltered in the past. For example, in 2001, AT&T Wireless Services Inc. shuttered its fixed wireless unit, once dubbed Project Angel. McCaw started the project before he sold his cellular company, McCaw Cellular Communications Inc., to AT&T Corp. in 1994 for $11.5 billion.

Click here to read more about Clearwire.

“We have crossed the river on the backs of the pioneers who have failed,” said McCaw in Kirkland, Wash.

Officials at Clearwire and Intel said their companies have been developing and testing WiMax equipment since last summer.

Still, many potential customers said the technology is too nascent to trust.

“WiMax is still in its infancy, and the business models are not yet clear,” said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and CareGroup Health System, a Boston-area hospital group. “For now, cable models and DSL are our last-mile-provider choice.”

802.16e allows roaming among base stations and acts as a much-faster version of Wi-Fi. While fixed versions of WiMax have been ratified, 802.16e won’t be ratified before next year. Intel plans to include 802.16e support in its Centrino chip sets between 2006 and 2007, depending on the ratification schedule, said officials in Santa Clara, Calif. Intel’s focus is mobility, not fixed wireless, they added.

For that reason, wireless cellular carriers said that they have no immediate plans for WiMax and that they are not threatened by its potential to compete with 3G networks such as CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized).

WiMax flavors

Loosely defined rules for fixed wireless transmissions
IEEE ratification
January 2003

Fixed some of the errata in 802.16a, encouraged product development
IEEE ratification
June 2004

Will allow for roaming among base stations—taking the “fixed” out of fixed wireless
IEEE ratification
Expected in mid-2005

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