Intel will continue plans to build WiMax technology into its silicon despite news of Sprint Nextel and Clearwire ending plans for a nationwide WiMax network.
Sprint Nextel and Clearwire in July said they planned to connect their WiMax networks and offer services to as many as 100 million people by the end of next year. The goal was to get the details ironed out by mid-September, and earlier this month, Sprint officials said the discussions were ongoing. News of the decision to scrap the plans came out Nov. 9.
An Intel spokesperson said that news of the Sprint-Clearwater decision was disappointing, but that the chip maker is still prepared to move ahead with plans to build more of the wireless technology into its microprocessors and hardware platforms.
“Our plan has not changed and our efforts to incorporate WiMax into our silicon have not changed,” an Intel spokesperson told eWEEK Nov. 9. “Our plans remained unchanged and we will continue to work closely with both companies.”
For years, Intel has been investing in WiMax technology with the belief that it would be the preferred technology to replace Wi-Fi. In addition, Intel has invested a significant amount of money in Clearwire to help the company build out its WiMax network and invest in new technology.
In July, when Sprint and Clearwire announced their partnership to build these WiMax networks in the United States, it seemed to give Intel and other investors—Samsung and Motorola, notably—the type of viability the technology needed to compete against 3G. Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said the breakdown between Clearwire and Sprint is a blow to Intels efforts to showcase the technology.
“I think what happens is that Intel begins to looks for another deal to replace this one,” Kay said. “I think they will continue to work with Sprint on its own and with Clearwire. WiMax is definitely a part of Intels roadmap, but now it seems that the rollout will be slower.”
WiMax is a broadband technology based on the IEEE 802.16 standard and has the potential to transmit data over significant distances through a number of different means, such as point-to-point links.
At the 2007 Intel Developer Forum in September, company executives spent much of the show talking about their interest in building chips and platforms for a host of mobile devices, such as laptops and MIDs (mobile Internet devices). In 2008, Intel will introduce a new mobile platform called “Montevina,” which will include WiMax and Wi-Fi support along with new processors from its Penryn family of 45-nanometer chips.
Intel still plans on testing its WiMax technology with various networks toward the end of this year in anticipation of the release of the new mobile platform in 2008. One of those tests will be with a Clearwire WiMax network in Hillsboro, Ore.
Kay said Intel will now begin focusing on other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, that have the infrastructure already set up and are more open to new, cutting-edge technologies.
Phillip Redman, an analyst with Gartner, said that while Intel and other companies like Motorola and Samsung will likely go ahead and refine and test WiMax technologies, the loss of the Clearwire-Sprint deal will likely slow down its adoption in the United States. PC vendors might also reconsider adding WiMax capabilities into their clients.
“Intel is the one building the silicon, but its OEM partners may delay putting the technology onto the motherboard until it is more relative to what [the vendors] want to do,” Redman said.
The Intel spokesperson said that several vendors, including Lenovo, Panasonic, Toshiba and Acer, are already committed to the new mobile platform and will be supporting the WiMax technologies.