Intel Capital has been busy. We reported yesterday on their multimillion dollar investment in videogame advertising, but that amount is pocket change compared to the US$600 million Intel has just invested in Clearwire. The investment is the largest ever for Intel Capital, and it signals the company’s continued interest in the WiMAX-style technology pushed by Clearwire.
Who is Clearwire? The firm, headquartered up in Washington state, offers wireless Internet access based on the IEEE 802.16e-2005 standard, with plans to adopt full WiMAX compatibility when the technology finally gets up and running. They already operate networks along the West coast and in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Denmark, and Mexico. Connection speeds top out at 1.5Mbps and the company says that monthly charges range from US$30 to US$37, with an additional five-spot a month for the modem rental.
Clearwire plans to use the massive cash infusion to help fund a nationwide build-out of its technology, hopefully getting a jump on more established telecommunications companies which have not yet fully committed to WiMAX deployments. Intel wants to push the technology anyway it can, since it hopes to be a major manufacturer of WiMAX chipsets. The first WiMAX laptop cards should be ready by the end of this year, and Intel has already announced plans to incorporate the new technology into its Centrino platform.
While Clearwire races to expand its reach, it faces competition from the established players in the industry. Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. has perhaps been most vocal about his interest in building a national WiMAX network in the US, a move that could suddenly secure the company a major role in Internet distribution (though such a move would have its own difficulties).
Given all the interest that now surrounds WiMAX, it looks like the long-delayed technology will at last get its day in the sun. If it turns out to offer reliable broadband speeds without also requiring a telephone line or cable TV connection, expect this to be a deeply disruptive technology over the next decade.