The article below from NYTimes.com has been sent to you by samarajiva AT lirne DOT net.
By JOHN MARKOFF,
In an effort to create a global wireless alternative to cable and telephone Internet service, Intel said on Monday that it would collaborate with Clearwire, a wireless broadband company, in developing and deploying the new technology. The companies said that Intel would make a "significant” investment in Clearwire, which has begun building long-range wireless data networks around the world. Clearwire, founded by Craig O. McCaw, a pioneer of the cellular industry, said in August that it had raised $160 million from 23 investors in a private stock transaction. The companies are betting that a new wireless technology called WiMax – which is intended to extend the reach of Wi-Fi wireless networks by permitting a single transceiver to connect hundreds or thousands of customers to the Internet over distances of many miles – will succeed where other long-range wireless data technologies have failed in the past.
Intel is spending $150 million to jumpstart WiMax technology by creating a series of new chips designed to support the WiMax standard. Clearwire recently began offering wireless Internet service in Jacksonville, Fla., for about $25 a month.
During a news conference on Monday, Mr. McCaw said that Clearwire was moving more quickly to deploy the service in major cities in Canada and Mexico and that it was also active in developing countries like Bangladesh. The company said that it could be in as many as 20 American markets next year, but Mr. McCaw said getting access to radio spectrum was more difficult in this country than in Canada and Mexico. He also said that Clearwire could succeed at offering high-speed wireless Internet access where others have failed, in part because it hoped to take advantage of Intel’s efforts to create a global technology standard. "We are tempered by the fact that everyone who has tried this has failed," Mr. McCaw said, "but we’re crossing the river on the backs of pioneers." During the 1990’s there were a number of efforts to provide Internet access wirelessly both in urban and rural areas in the United States, but they have all failed financially. Intel executives said on Monday that they believed that by creating a single global standard for WiMax technology, wireless access could become an alternative to digital subscriber lines and cable.
Philadelphia – where I think you sent that email from Tha – is deploying a city-wide WiFi network. Slate thinks that this is nice but foolhardy because
“right when Philly’s network is scheduled for completion, there will be a successor to Wi-Fi that is designed to provide large-scale coverage. This new technology, dubbed WiMAX, will be standard in Intel’s laptop chip sets starting in 2006 and will dwarf the power of Wi-Fi gear. Wi-Fi base stations transmit at about two-tenths of a watt; WiMax runs at as much as 30 watts, powering through walls with a maximum range of 30 miles. Moreover, Wi-Fi signals not only compete with each other, but with cordless phones and microwave ovens that broadcast on similar wavelengths; WiMAX travels on radio frequencies that are much less congested. A single WiMAX towera huge, multi-thousand-dollar contraption that resembles a cell phone tower more than an Apple AirPortwill serve thousands of customers at once.”
I also think that WiMax is a godsend for countries like here which don’t have the infrastructure to build on – since WiMax makes a lot of the infrastructure irrelevant. Of course, it would be nice if the power didn’t cut out in Battaramulla every few days.
WiMax is good. It will have huge impacts in countries like ours [Sri Lanka] where there is no real urban-rural divide, but a blending of cities-towns-villages-towns-cities along the winding roads across the island 430km in length and 220km. With this type geographical dispersion we could easily have towers in cities and cover the towns and villages; somewhat similar to the logic of PIPU Consultants in designing the rural connectivity subsidy! Therefore, the impact of WiMax could be much higher in Sri Lanka than, for instance India with extremely highly populated cities [good for Wi-Fi] but villages that are far away from them.
I feel LIRNEasia should proactively begin the process of getting Governments in this region to reverse restrictive policy and regulation that would effectively limit the ability to exploit this emerging technology. Let me give you an example. We have a pilot project at the Dambulla Dedicated Economic Zone [the countrys largest wholesale produce market; 160km north of Colombo] called Govi Gnana Seva [meaning farmer knowledge service] where we are establishing an agriculture-price-capture and dissemination service [with many other features]. The TRC first refused our application to use Wi-Fi equipment at the market for no apparent reason. Only after numerous appeals and their staff physically visiting the site and realizing the importance of the service did they give us a temporary license to use the required equipment, in my personal name! If these kinds of barriers are not removed, we will never be able to benefit from WiMax, however good they may be.
Besides policy, an interesting question would be how WiMax would be received by telecommunications companies. Besides dampening their ISP business, the large WiMax bandwidth could surely threaten their telephone services because the new technology could enhance the emerging VoIP business. So telcos could work to limit WiMax use. But, on the other hand, telcos could see it differently; as a new business opportunity. Mobile phone towers can be used to house the WiMax paraphernalia. For instance, Dialog alone has 400 base stations across all 9 provinces of Sri Lanka already catering to over 1 of 19 million people of the country. They could help develop WiMax use. How will it play out?
This could be an interesting opportunity for LIRNEasia to help steer the debate among its stakeholders; government, business and civil society, in a constructive way so WiMax could actually become an effective tool in taking the dividends of ICT to the villages of South Asia to provide money in the pocket; hope in the heart ala Rohan Samarajiva.
Intel’s $600 Million WiMax Bet
Businessweek July 6, 2006
An investment in Craig McCaw’s Clearwire shows the chipmaker is serious about the technology for wireless broadband over large areas Any doubts about Intel’s commitment to its fledgling WiMax business were just dashed. Despite rumors the computer chipmaker has considered dumping the business as part of a broad reorganization now under way, Intel (INTC ) on July 5 announced it would invest $600 million in Clearwire, the wireless broadband provider founded by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw.
The goal: to help build a nationwide service that equips notebook PCs for fast Web access and Internet-based calling over vast swaths of the U.S.
INTENSE RACE. The surprise announcement of Intel’s second investment in Kirkland (Wash.)-based Clearwire in recent years is a big shot in the arm for WiMax, a technology that blankets large areas with wireless broadband. It’s likely to accelerate efforts by big-name wireless carriers to offer competing technology. “The U.S. is now going to get a high-speed wireless broadband network sooner than it would have,” says Intel Executive Vice-President Sean Maloney, who spoke to BusinessWeek in an interview.[…]
WiMax could benefit consumers by providing a low-cost alternative to the high-speed Internet access being offered by the cable and telecom operators that dominate the market in a duopoly. Upstarts could use WiMax to break cheaply into incumbents’ markets, offering lower prices and higher speeds.
Clearwire, for example, has introduced a precursor to WiMax in 27 smaller cities across the country. AOL sells a rebranded Clearwire service called AOL High Speed in parts of California and Florida for as low as $26 a month.
INTEL’S CLOUT. Intel executives have called WiMax one of the biggest potential disruptive technologies in the world. With WiMax, Intel aims to duplicate its successful Wi-Fi strategy. In 2003 the chipmaker rolled out its Centrino line of Wi-Fi chips, a move that helped bring the wireless home network to tens of millions.
In that case, Intel used market clout to convince its core customers—PC makers—to adopt Centrino as a standard. The company next year plans to incorporate dual Wi-Fi/WiMax chips into its Centrino platform to help propel the market. […]
To date, Clearwire has limited its ambitions to rural locations that traditionally have been underserved by major carriers because of the economics of delivering high-speed service there. Last year, the company swapped spectrum it owned in larger cities with Sprint Nextel to better align its network.
Still, Clearwire is in the process of delivering service to Seattle, one of the nation’s top technology centers, and Honolulu. That could signal a broader effort to roll out to major cities. And it may be just the impetus Intel needs to once again turn industries on their ear.
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