Intel has spent a lot of time and money backing WiMax as a next-generation wireless standard, and it looks like the company isn't ready to watch its partners falter just yet.
The Street.com reported Tuesday that Intel is preparing to fund a $2 billion joint venture formed by Sprint and Clearwire that would own the spectrum rights held by both companies. The two companies had previously planned to build a nationwide WiMax network but shelved those ambitions after Sprint CEO Gary Forsee was sent packing last year. Still, , and it sounds like they might be building to some sort of conclusion.
Building a national wireless network in the U.S. is a daunting task; this is a pretty big country. WiMax is basically Wi-Fi on Andy Pettitte Juice, designed to cover metropolitan areas with a wireless connection to the Internet. Intel has promoted the standard ad nauseam over the past few years, believing it a far easier way to bring a broadband connection to the world than wired cables.
The trouble is that Sprint is the only major U.S. carrier to commit to WiMax as its fourth-generation networking technology. AT&T and Verizon have both announced plans tostandard favored by the mobile phone industry. And they are in .
Intel has already invested hundreds of millions into Clearwire, which has built WiMax networks in scattered cities across the U.S. A $2 billion investment would give the joint venture close to enough seed capital to dramatically expand that build-out, while allowing Sprint to dump its WiMax assets off the balance sheet and focus on keeping more of its wireless customers on board.
With plans to ship a wireless chip within due time, the reported investment would fit into Intel's strategic plans. Perhaps a little more closely than its last investment aimed at .