by Derek Kerton

Is Intel Vs. Qualcomm The "Clash Of The Titans"?

In a recent opinion piece on the WiMAX Trends website, Robert Syputa positions Qualcomm and Intel as the big looming battle for the wireless frontier, and thus the growth area of the future. The argument is that Qualcomm owns the majority of the IP for 3GPP and 3GPP2 standard technologies for BWA, and that with the convergence of fixed and mobile networks the San Diego chipmaker is increasingly threatening the future of the San Jose company. Intel, thus, has staked its future on WiMAX technology, says Syputa, and needs it to win the battle for Broadband Wireless in much the same way as it needed WiFi to win the battle for WLAN. But while I often agree with Mr. Syputa, there's one problem this time. Intel was NOT AT ALL a WiFi champion -- in fact, Intel championed the now forgotten HomeRF technology instead of the young 802.11b standard. What I find most informative was the way Intel lost that battle, and then promptly abandoned HomeRF in favor of WiFi, leaving all its former allies behind. Did Intel suffer for having chosen the wrong horse? Not much. As it turns out, it mattered little to Intel which technology won the WLAN battle, but what really mattered was that some technology won. Intel could then ride the WiFi wave by integrating someone else's chips with the Pentium M, calling it Centrino, and selling a bundle of new laptop hardware. They made about as much money on WiFi as they would've made on HomeRF. It wasn't a win/lose scenario, but a win/win-later scenario for Intel. I believe that that is the precedent we need to understand. If WiMAX falters, is unduly delayed, or is beaten to mobility by some other technology (which appears to be happening), then at some point, Intel will simply abandon ship and adopt the other technology. I know that this seems impossible when you listen to the loving tones coming from Intel execs as they wax poetic about WiMAX, but that's exactly how they spoke about HomeRF until the day before they dumped it. So, while I have agreed with Syputa in the past, this time I can't cotton to his thesis that Intel-Qualcomm is the "Clash of the Titans" which will be pivotal to Intel's success. I agree that it is indeed a clash of titans, but it is by no means pivotal to Intel's success. They will gladly sail whatever ship gets them to BWA town first.

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  • identicon
    Jacomo, 29 Jun 2005 @ 6:06pm


    We really need to define terms in this Wireless Market. My firm is a provider of both Cell (Cingular) and WLAN/WiFi products and services and we are all confusing the consumers as well as each other by this lack of standard terms for the technologies we use to deliver the Wireless Data and emerging VoiceIP services. What is BWA anyway?? By definition when we use the term Broadband we do not apply it (nor should anyone) to the Narrowband (Under 1Mbps) Cell Carrier systems, which in the real world today and for the next few years will all be below 1Mbps for any symmetrical service. These Carrier grade systems should define their services as Narrowband Wireless, even thought it goes against the grain of a good market type to admit anything is Narrow. Facts: These new VOiceIP, Video, gaming and Audio (P2P)content/apps are going to either bring these Carrier networks to their knee or quickly gravitate to the real Broadband side of the market, which will be WLAN/WiMAX and general WiFi based networks.They will also move to a Hybrid SmartPhone and PDA (already here)that has dual radios (GSM or CDMA and WLAN (WiFi or WIMAX). The PDA side will allow for the real Broadband piece and large screens required for the emerging COntent. Prediction: The cell carriers that focus (their valuable licensed spectrum)on enhancing the quality of their pure voice play and provide Narrowband access to some of the new IP based multi-media content, while developing their own or partnering with Local Metro Area WLAN service providers (with handoff-interoperability) will rule this market. Unlicensed WiMAX/802.11n/UWB and other emerging true Broadband Technologies will dominate the Short range (0-4 Miles) segment of the market with true Broadband (up to 6-100Mbps Interactive systems)systems interoperating with the Narrowband Carriers. Jacomo

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  • identicon
    Robert Syputa, 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:10pm

    DSSS, 802.16b is not WiMAX or LTE, NGMN 4G

    You do not understand: 802.11b or even 802.11a/g is not the basis for 802.16e/m/j, LTE, UMB or any other NGMN system. Very few of the patents specific to WLAN are essential or fundamental to these wide area wireless systems technologies. There is more overlap in MIMO, MIMO-AAS and some parts of MESH, but , oh yea, that is not part of the 802.11b/a/g standard either.

    IEEE 802.16e came about from developments inside SYSTEMS and related companies including Alvarion, Intel, Nortel, AT&T, Lucent-Bell Labs, Alcatel (now Al-Lu), Nokia, and a host of other companies. Many of the early contributors have been acquired by semiconductor or larger systems developers or have been incorporated into patent pools by companies intent on doing broad licensing. A few companies, including Alvarion, Proxim and Cisco were involved in 802.11b as well. But the IPR exposure in 802.11 is generally lower because the development is less.

    Semiconductors are the enablers of all of WiFi and wireless wide area systems. The enabling IPR underlies producing any device... you would not have WiFi at all, nada, without IPR of Intel, TI and a few other firms that is licensed to independent IC manufacturers and cross-licensed between them. If Intel really wanted to piss on the party they could probably cause big trouble for anyone producing WiFi chips through the extension of their broader IPR licensing.

    WiFi is based on technologies that have been percolating up in development for decades awaiting low cost silicon to enable them. WiFi is revolutionary like the Intel 8080 processor was revolutionary... it was a step along the way of evolution that had step-wise impact because of semi advances and without which it could not have been possible.

    No WiFi, no cellular, no wireless for the masses.

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  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 8 Oct 2008 @ 3:31pm



    I fully agree with paragraph 1 of your comment directly above. What part of my post makes you question that? I've said nothing about any technology link between Wi-Fi and WiMAX?

    See what Techdirt thought about the Intel-spun link between Wi-Fi and WiMAX here: http://techdirt.com/blog/wireless/articles/20050113/145029.shtml

    What I did say is that you wrote that Intel needs WiMAX to win just like it needed Wi-Fi to win. I pointed out a historical fact that you seem to have forgotten. Intel was AGAINST Wi-Fi until March 2001, when Wi-Fi became an unstoppable force against Intel's horse in the race, HomeRF>


    That's all I said that disagreed with you. It's a fact, I'm right, you were wrong. And you can't refute that argument by diving deep into the technology discussion and accusing me of failing to understand something I didn't even mention!

    The driving point of my post was not to point out your mistake, but to introduce the fact that Intel can win whether WiMAX wins, or LTE or whatever - just as they won when Wi-Fi beat their champion, HomeRF. They mainly want to sell a new generation of processor chipsets, IPR royalties on the wireless protocol are just the icing on the cake.

    I have no idea what you mean by your last sentence, you're too smart to have written that as anything but a mistake.

    Derek Kerton

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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