Driving WiMAX Into Reality: Intel "World Ahead" Program

As if they hadn’t already invested enough money into WiMAX in order to give it critical mass, Intel is forging ahead with their quasi-philanthropic effort “World Ahead”. The program aims to bridge the digital divide, and provide Internet access to remote and under-developed regions of the world. In the news today, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett was in one of the most remote places in the world at Parintins in the Amazon, to launch a fixed WiMAX network that will bring connectivity to 5 public institutions (the WiMAX tower was funded by Intel, but the service will not be free.) The linked article notes that one of the greatest challenges at Parintins is reliable power, which is common in remote and developing regions…and California. We note that an additional challenge is the very high cost of satellite backhaul. With only five institutions on the WiMAX network, it’s unclear how a WiMAX network is more economical than just getting their own satellite connection, but over time the number of institutions and companies that connect to the network is expected to grow, so they can all leverage the shared WiMAX infrastructure. Intel reportedly plans to spend US$1 billion over the next five years to bring WiMAX to developing nations. Add that to the many WiMAX companies they’ve funded, the investments in Clearwire and Pipex, etc, and the probably generous terms of the deal with Sprint, and the total level of WiMAX investment from Intel becomes truly amazing.

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Comments on “Driving WiMAX Into Reality: Intel "World Ahead" Program”

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Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Starting To Be Convinced

Well, Alaric, God knows I haven’t been a supporter of WiMAX for all these years. But I’m beginning to see it as the tech world’s best case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Intel has put billions into telling us that WiMAX is clad in shimmering samite, and people have been eating it up for years now. If everyone agrees that the emperor’s clothes are beautiful, at which point does it simply become true?

I don’t like the fact that one company can “buy” an alternate reality, and “wish it to life”. Yet I’m starting to realize that it could be so. By getting everyone on the WiMAX bandwagon with cash incentives, the technology may just muddle its way through the many challenges it has (and will) face, and persevere. By investing in mindshare and customers, Intel has made sure that very few vendors are working on the alternatives (whether they be better or not).

That’s my negative view on the scenario. My more realistic take is that WiMAX will persevere because of the above, but other technologies will also survive by virtue of actually being better technology. Unlike VHS/Beta, there can be more than one winner in this space. But I think we can guess who the 800 pound gorilla is.

Alaric says:

RE: Starting To Be Convinced

Intel’s smoke and mirror show is well suited for the consumer market but its not going to work on the major carriers.

Lets not forget that major carriers have seen and paid for this before. They went along with the 3G hype and purchased the overpriced spectrum. I think they’ve learned something.

So here is the question that question. How much of an improvement over HxPA and future EV-DO does WiMAX provide and what business model goes along with it to justify its deployment.

WiMAX may very well provide no improvement over HxPA and in a loaded cell it may well be worse so why upgrade. Why spend billions of dollars to float Intel’s hype boat? They will not

And the evidence that carriers are cold to intel’s propaganda is flagrant. Intel has no wins outside of tiny carriers, whom they’ve pretty much purchased, and Sprint whom they pretty much purchased.

Can intel buy vodafone and Tmobile and orange adn telefonica. Me thinks not.

And ask this? Just how large is Sprint’s purchase order for Wimax equipment. How much have they really committed to and what will they do with that AWS spectrum they just got. Sprint’s has agreed to deploy before real trials (mobile wimax is really a lab project still). So what’s the deal there?

Sprint decision look an awful lot like an attempt by failing executives to distract the market from its blundering Nextel merger and the corresponding poor financials.

Mark my word sprint will deploy what Europe’s carriers will deploy. Wimax, which is not ready, gives them a convenient “the tech is still not ready” two years to stall.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Link Over


I tend to agree with you on the technical issue. But I’m postulating that with enough Billions, you can make your own reality. It worked for Michael Jackson, so why not Intel? WiMAX is just their Wonderland.

Of course, as you noted, Intel cannot buy every carrier, and similarly I understand MJ went bankrupt. Wonderland chews through a lot of dough.

But since Intel has got so many companies on the bandwagon, and so many smart engineers at those companies working on mobile WiMAX, it now has a chance at overcoming the technology hurdles it faces. It has vendors prepared to make the products if they can work (interoperably).

I think we agree on Sprint. Have a look at what Joe Hudson wrote at:
Joe is associated with my firm, but works for different client accounts.

alaric says:

Joe Hudson

that was a good article but i still doubt intel can con wall street into forcing carriers to deploy wimax.

Wibro is providing less than stellar results and sprint could be the undoing of wimax for good. Sprint will have ev-do rev b up by 2008. WiMAX at 2.6 GHz is not going to offer any improvement and frankly it might be worse (due to the higher frequency and corresponding coverage issues and handoff issues which wimax has not ironed out).

I think you’ll see sprint asking for more time in 2008 due to legitimate technology issues. Mobile wimax is not going to be ready by then and that puts wimax too close to subsequent EV-DO, LTE, 802.20, etc availability and hype cycles.

But i don’t think intel cares. Intel’s drive has as much to do with forcing carriers and vendors to accelerate development of broadband wireless regardless of tech as it does with claiming wimax. Intel wins in any scenario because they make money from pentiums in the end.

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