Two Wireless Broadband Standards Get a Boost

Oct 26, 2004 (06:10 PM EDT)

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The battle lines between two leading wireless broadband technologies were drawn more clearly this week as the major proponents of each approach announced that a large hardware company had joined their camp.

In the case of WiMAX, Intel and Clearwire announced Monday they will jointly develop WiMAX hardware and build wireless broadband networks based on the emerging WiMAX standard. ClearWire's founder and CEO is Craig McCaw, a pioneer of cellular telephone service.

On the FLASH-OFDM side, Netgear, the networking equipment maker announced that it would work with Flarion Technologies, architect of the FLASH-OFDM technology, to manufacture products that integrate FLASH-OFDM(R) and Wi-Fi functionality through NETGEAR's line of 802.11b/g products, with the first products aimed at mobile operators expected before the end of this year.

As part of its collaboration with Intel, Clearwire intends to deploy WiMAX networks using wireless broadband equipment from a subsidiary, NextNet Wireless, that includes future Intel silicon products. The agreement covers development of future products that support WiMAX in both infrastructure equipment and notebooks.

WiMAX, as described in the proposed IEEE 802.16e standard, would deliver high-speed broadband connectivity in both fixed and mobile wireless networks. Intel, Clearwire and NextNet engineers have began some months ago to develop, WiMAX base stations and customer premise equipment. This hardware will be designed and built by NextNet based on Intel silicon.

The agreement also involves an investment in Clearwire by Intel Capital, Intel's strategic investment program. The investment is part of an Intel strategy to invest $150 million in wireless technology to help drive adoption of high-speed wireless networks. Specific financial terms of the investment were not disclosed.

The Netgear/Flarion partnership's first product will be a broadband modem that would connect FLASH-OFDM networks to personal computers and networks using Ethernet or Wi-Fi technology. Netgear also may develop a card for laptops that would enable mobile access using Flash-OFDM. Netgear and Flarion said they expect their combined effort will result in the delivery of FLASH-OFDM and Wi-Fi functionality to service providers beginning in 2005.

The announcement made Netgear the second manufacturer to announce support for FLASH-OFDM: earlier this month Siemens said it will build FLASH-OFDM network equipment.