Intel, Motorola put up $900 million to save WiMax
The news yesterday that WiMax startup Clearwire dropped plans for an IPO that could have raised $400 million, and instead took a $900 million infusion of capital from Intel and Motorola instead has wireless wags buzzing. WiMax, a wireless technology with a longer range than Wi-Fi, has long drawn critics, and Clearwire, backed by AT&T Wireless founder Craig McCaw, has been something of a lightning rod. The biggest criticism: WiMax uses private radio frequencies that firms must pay to use, unlike Wi-Fi, which uses free, unlicensed radio spectrum.
Techdirt's take is that Intel, which has heavily backed the WiMax standard and hopes to make chips to power WiMax communications gear, put up the money to keep WiMax from looking bad in a dud of an IPO. For Intel's venture-capital arm, which put up $600 million of the total, this is the largest single investment ever. And it follows a pattern set by an earlier Intel investment in which ClearWire agreed to buy WiMax gear from Intel. "In other words, Intel was paying Clearwire to buy its WiMax technology," says Techdirt. Now, Intel's investing in Clearwire to keep it from having to take its chances in an IPO which, if it went poorly, might give both Clearwire and WiMax technology a black eye. Wi-Fi Networking News's Glenn Fleishman has a more charitable take, saying that Intel's large investment guarantees that Clearwire will be able to build out a nationwide WiMax network.
At part of the same cash infusion, Motorola has bought Clearwire's NextNet Wireless, which makes the receivers that Clearwire customers install at home to receive high-speed Internet access, and it also invested in Clearwire through its venture-capital arm.
Clearly both Intel and Motorola are betting they'll profit from Clearwire as a customer. But as an investment? That remains to be seen.
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