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Clearwire selects Cisco to help build 4G network

Cisco will provide IP routers and other gear to build Clearwire's nationwide WiMax network and also develop some related consumer devices.

Clearwire named networking equipment maker Cisco Systems as a key supplier to help it build its nationwide 4G wireless network, the companies announced Wednesday.

As part of the new strategic partnership, Cisco will provide IP routers and other equipment to build Clearwire's network, which uses a technology called WiMax. Cisco will also develop some consumer devices that can be used on the network. Cisco wouldn't provide specifics about the new products, but a Cisco representative said that these devices will be sold under the Linksys brand and are expected to be introduced later this year.

Cisco, which is the world's largest supplier of Internet infrastructure equipment, has also been developing WiMax radio gear for a while. The company bought WiMax equipment maker Navini in 2007. But the company has mainly focused its WiMax radio products on fixed WiMax offerings that deliver broadband service to businesses and homes in areas where traditional land-based broadband infrastructure is unavailable.

Suraj Shetty, vice president of worldwide service provider marketing for Cisco, said that Cisco will still focus its WiMax business on building radio equipment for fixed broadband in the developing world. And he added that the deal with Clearwire is only to supply Internet infrastructure and consumer devices for Clearwire.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.

Clearwire is building a nationwide wireless broadband network using WiMax. Late last year, it merged its wireless assets with spectrum from Sprint Nextel. And it has received billions of dollars in investment from Google, Intel, Comcast, and Time Warner.

The company has said that by the end of 2010 it expects to have service in over 80 markets with access to more than 120 million customers.

AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two largest cell phone operators in the country, have already said they plan to use a competing technology known as LTE to build their 4G networks. Verizon will begin testing its this year and expects to begin commercial deployments of the service early in 2010.