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Sprint, Clearwire Partner With Intel, Cable Companies To Spread WiMax

Google, Comcast, Time Warner, Intel, and others are investing $3.2 billion to resuscitate the Sprint-Clearwire WiMax partnership.
Fellah, who said he recently witnessed a test of the service in the Washington area, said it delivered impressive results, although he noted it was operating on just a handful of base stations.

Deployment speed is of the essence, Fellah said, noting that competitors such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T are moving to roll out their own advanced wireless broadband networks based on a wireless standard known as LTE.

"WiMax has much higher data rates than 3G, and consumers will eventually have to make a choice between 3G and WiMax," Fellah said, adding that 3G has the advantage of wider coverage.

The key, of course, is the rollout of mobile WiMax, which Fellah expects to be implemented by Sprint-Clearwire by the end of the year. Initial WiMax rollouts are under way in a few rural areas in California and Texas by startups Xanadoo Wireless and Razzolink. Both companies use equipment supplied by Navini Networks, which was recently acquired by Cisco Systems.

"The power of the mobile Internet, which offers speed and mobility, home and away, on any device or screen, will fundamentally transform the communications landscape in our country," McCaw said in a statement Wednesday. "We believe that the new Clearwire will operate one of the fastest and most capable broadband wireless networks ever conceived, giving us the opportunity to return the U.S. to a leadership position in the global wireless industry." Clearwire had a subscriber base of nearly 400,000 at the end of 2007.

Sprint is already feeling new competitive pressure. In recent days, Verizon Wireless has begun to offer its BroadbandAccess service for $40 a month. Another sign of intensifying competition between Clearwire-Sprint and Verizon Wireless is Google's request to the FCC that Verizon Wireless set aside a section of its recent 700-MHz spectrum purchase for "open" use by nonproprietary devices and software products.

The participation of Comcast in the new joint venture brings a cable company into the wireless broadband landscape for the first time. Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast, said: "This transaction is attractive to us strategically and financially and puts in place very attractive wholesale relationships for access to Sprint's existing 3G and Clearwire's 4G networks, giving us complete flexibility to introduce wireless mobility in terms of product innovation and deployment."

Bright House, a smaller cable provider, has pledged $100 million to the joint venture.

The joint venture is something of a feather in Intel's cap, too, as the company pioneered WiMax and is beginning to place its WiMax chips in laptops; without a WiMax network, all those laptops wouldn't have much use for their WiMax chips.

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