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Freescale and Wavesat will work together to create a customer premises equipment (CPE) gateway for businesses and homes: The two firms combine reference design boards from Freescale with chips from Wavesat. Reference designs are licensed to so-called OEMs (original equipment manfacturers), which customize the products appearance and firmware, choose parameters, and job out the production, typically to electronics makers across Asia in Taiwan, Singapore, and China. The devices will first support 802.16-2004 fixed service, but be upgradable to 802.16-2005 for fixed and mobile purposes. That upgradability likely means a different chip rather than firmware. A note at the end mentions 3.5 GHz, but there’s otherwise no mention of spectrum.
NetNearU will deploy Wi-Fi, WiMax: The hotspot service firm has apparently deployed 327 Wi-Fi hotspots in Nigeria, with 300 turned on at a ceremony noting the Intel and NetNearU partnership. The article is a little hazy on all the technical details, but it sounds as if NetNearU will offer WiMax for final mile to the home and to businesses, while also using it to power their hotspots.
Clearwire’s WiMax modems will be sold in Best Buy stores as self-install kits: In the areas that Clearwire covers, mostly communities in the U.S. that are urban but not metropolises, Best Buy will offer the small modem needed for reception and distribution in a home. This includes 25 stores to start with. Big-box distribution of modems is a much cheaper way than operating their own storefronts, and allows Best Buy to promote the service as well.
California wireless ISP NextWeb has formed a partnership that will supply hotels with broadband services: NextWeb’s partner, Kyber, offers Internet services to hotels, for use by guests and workers. Kyber said it will offer hotels NextWeb’s broadband wireless service. NextWeb will essentially set up wireless backhaul and Kyber will focus on getting the broadband access to the rooms, presumably using Wi-Fi.
NextWeb has been quite active in the recent year or so, adding new markets and new services, such as voice. This announcement is a great application for broadband wireless. The hotels can bypass the local wireline player, which in many cases may not offer the best customer support. It’s also possible that NextWeb can offer the same or better service for a lower price.
NextWeb and Kyber have at least one hotel customer, as the announcement includes a quote from the manager of a Quality Inn and a Comfort Inn.
Intel and Nokia said they’ll work together on encouraging the development and deployment of WiMax: Intel has made similar announcements with loads of operators and vendors. I’d be curious to know exactly what such alliances produce. Still, the alliance is a bit of a coup for Intel, since Nokia initially joined the WiMax Forum, then pulled out, then joined again (although the flip flopping didn’t stop Nokia from calling itself a founding member of the forum in this press release). It seems that Nokia has finally decided to seriously back the standard. As part of the announcement, Nokia said it will include WiMax support in its network equipment, though it’s not clear to me if Nokia is pledging to develop its own WiMax gear or resell someone else’s. This move follows some of its competitors, including Alcatel, who are moving toward producing base stations that support the widest possible number of network technologies.
The press release about the Intel/Nokia collaboration also says that the companies will work on demonstrating to the industry how WiMax can enhance data capabilities while complementing 3G. This is a crucial endeavor. I think the telecom industry as a whole is very confused about how 3G and WiMax fit together and I don’t think the WiMax Forum or its members have done a particularly good job of explaining it—perhaps because they haven’t quite figured it out themselves.
Intel and Sprint announced partnership to develop future WiMax in 2.5 GHz: When Sprint completes its merger with Nextel, the company will own most of the commercial 2.5 GHz licenses and a big hunk of the spectrum available nationally. That band is a mess, and while the FCC has proposed ways to redistribute it, none of them appear to be moving forward. It will be a great sandbox for Sprint and Intel to test licensed mobile WiMax in.
Mobile WiMax is probably two years away, with Intel a big backer of the 802.16e standard for ubiquitous access. Mobile WiMax will contend with cell data and it may have superior properties. This is why cell carriers in the US (except T-Mobile) have rapidly developed 3G plans even with inadequate spectrum available.
Manitoba Telecom sold its share of a project that aimed to build broadband wireless networks in Canada to project partners Rogers and NR Communications: Rogers vaguely says it is exploring its options and NR apparently hasn’t made any comment.
While this initiative may be fizzling, I wouldn’t make this particular incident into a Canadian broadband wireless killer. There are other long-running broadband wireless deployments in Canada that bring services to the remote reaches of the country. In addition, perhaps it is significant that NR, which is apparently backed by Craig McCaw, hasn’t made any comments yet. McCaw is also involved with Inukshuk in Canada, which owns wireless spectrum there and has already built some networks.
AT&T and Intel said they formed a deal six months ago to work on a chip: The chip, which could operate in cell phones, PDAs, and set-top boxes, would let customers click on an AT&T icon to make voice over IP calls. The two will also work on extending the range of WiMax, though I’m not entirely sure why AT&T in particular should be in the position to contribute to such development.
The arrangement probably helps Intel more than AT&T. While Centrino was an obvious step in the right direction, Intel has long openly been eager to expand its presence in the communications space. This deal could get its chips into cell phones, a huge market where Intel doesn’t have much play yet. However, without a cell phone network, it’s not entirely clear how AT&T might help get Intel chips built into mobile phones.
It’s always tough to determine whether deals like this—slightly vague, far-reaching partnerships between two heavy-hitters—will actually produce anything. We’ll just have to wait and see.