A new alliance of WiMax players aims to create a competitive royalty structure.
WiMax took another tentative step forward June 9 with the formation of the
Open Patent Alliance, creating a patent pool to help companies obtain access to
patents at a predictable cost. The group said its aim is to advance a
competitive and open intellectual property rights model.
The OPA's founding members include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Clearwire,
Intel, Samsung and Sprint Nextel. The OPA said it expects to secure
participation of an additional six to nine
The patent pool will aggregate essential patent rights needed to implement
the WiMax standard as defined by the WiMax Forum and the IEEE 802.16e standard.
WiMax is a 4G, IP-based broadband wireless technology that backers,
particularly Sprint Nextel, Clearwire and a host of tech companies, are betting
will become a viable broadband competitor.
In May, Sprint
revived its flagging $5 billion WiMax plans
with financial backing from
Intel, Google and major cable companies. Sprint will merge its struggling WiMax
division with Clearwire to create a new company operating under the Clearwire
"We expect to unleash wireless innovation with this patent
alliance," Barry West, president of Sprint's XOHM business unit, said in a
statement. "The open licensing program will help prompt pervasive WiMax
technology. This speeds the day when consumers can enjoy the convenience of
WiMax mobile broadband services on new devices in new places and experience all
the open Internet has to offer."
The OPA founders said they hope the patent pool approach will ensure product
differentiation and interoperability by focusing on providing a more
competitive royalty structure by charging only for the features required to
develop WiMax products. The patent pool will incorporate a number of royalty
licensing arrangements, including cross-licensing among members of the pool.
According to the OPA, an independent third-party reviewer will evaluate
submitted patents to determine how essential they are to the WiMax standard and
WiMax Forum profiles.
"We are confident that the formation of the Open Patent Alliance, which
is fully in line with Alcatel-Lucent's Open CPE
program, will ensure a broad and diverse set of devices will be available to
the consumer," said Brett Galloway, senior vice president of Cisco
wireless and security.
Galloway added that widespread adoption of WiMax would allow
people "to move freely throughout the world while maintaining continuous
connectivity to cool new applications and services."