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WiMax's Bottom Line

Ask people in the know about real-world uses of WiMax in the United States, and they'll say, "Talk to Clearwire."
Ask people in the know about real-world uses of WiMax in the United States, and they'll say, "Talk to ClearWire." The company--founded by Craig McCaw, who made his fortune in the early days of the cellular industry--bought WiMax-designated spectrum in smaller metro areas around the country and is serving it up in towns like Burlington, N.C.; Eugene, Ore.; and Waco, Texas. McCaw's ready to push into larger cities, with plans for rollouts in Honolulu and Seattle. The company's been successful enough that it's planning a $400 million initial public offering.

But one of the big questions hanging over ClearWire is when it will switch to certified WiMax equipment. The company relies mostly on proprietary technology from NextNet Wireless--another McCaw company--that it describes as "WiMax ready." Intel made a big investment in ClearWire in order to drive WiMax adoption. Under the deal, McCaw's company must adopt WiMax equipment within set timeframes of the gear being certified, or Intel can sell back up to $10 million of its shares, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. (ClearWire declined an interview, citing the pending IPO.)

ClearWire says in its IPO filing that it has the second largest share of spectrum around 2.5 GHz in the country, and it could reach up to 90 million people with the spectrum it owns. If ClearWire follows through on its WiMax plans, it could quickly give the United States its biggest testing ground for the technology.

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In Depth: Intel's Chip Plans Give WiMax A Mighty Push Forward