Will Intel finally realize its dream?

Lynnette LunaIntel Capital's $1-billion infusion into the new Clearwire, the largest single investment Intel Capital has made to date, demonstrates how high the stakes are for Intel and its quest to see mobile WiMAX succeed. The company has led standards bodies, built chips, funded early network development and pumped a lot of money into WiMAX vendors and operators to make sure this technology has a global footprint.
The hope is that computer manufacturers will see that WiMAX is big enough to incorporate the technology into laptops, thus increasing the demand for Centrino chipsets. But first, it needs to have some big network operators actually committed to mobile WiMAX so that they can drive interest in WiMAX-enabled laptops and other devices. So far Intel has made a lot of investments and spoken of many ambitious plans, but has had difficulty driving the vast deployments it seeks.

As part of last week's deal, Intel will work with manufacturers to embed WiMAX chips into Intel Centrino 2 processor technology-based laptops and other Intel-based mobile Internet devices, and will market the new company's service in association with Intel's performance notebook PC brand.

Intel last week was also among the winners of Sweden's auction of the 2.6 GHz band, acquiring 50 megahertz of TDD spectrum for $26.5 million. Intel is seeking partners to build and operate a WiMAX network.

At this point, Intel doesn't see becoming a service provider in order to push WiMAX a necessity. As part of the Clearwire deal, Intel has the option of wholesaling service from the new operator, but Intel Vice President Sriram Viswanathan told analysts that the company's primary focus "is to enable the platform to have WiMAX available across a variety of devices. You have to expect we're going to be primarily a technology supplier." Could this latest round of investments finally be the charm that gives Intel what it wants? --Lynnette