WiMax alliance formed by Cisco and Intel

Cisco Systems will join Clearwire Corp., Sprint Nextel Corp. and three WiMax equipment providers on Monday to announce an initiative aimed at simulating WiMax innovation through the sharing of WiMax patents.

The group behind the initiative includes Alcatel-Lucent, Intel Corp. and Samsung, according to officials at Cisco.

However, several well-known WiMax providers are not on the list, including Motorola Corp., which is providing equipment for a field test of mobile WiMax services in Chicago as part of the Xohm initiative spearheaded by Sprint.

Motorola officials, reached Friday, did not say whether they plan to join the new alliance, but said they continually evaluate proposals they hear about regarding patents and intellectual property associated with 4G networking gear, which includes WiMax.

“Motorola is actively engaged in searching for improvements in the intellectual property rights environment for 4G wireless standards,” a spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to Computerworld .” We continue to evaluate the merits and risks associated with every proposal that we hear about and we continue to make our own suggestions for improvements. We expect that this will be an iterative process and we remain committed to being an active participant in the discussion.”

Sprint and Clearwire announced a $14.5 billion WiMax joint venture on May 6 that includes investments by Intel, Google Inc. and cable providers to fund a nationwide build-out of a WiMax network that analysts had noted is badly in need of stimulus.

The Monday announcement is also designed to stimulate WiMax technology advancements, according analysts and others familiar with the effort.

In addition to the absence of Motorola, other companies interested in WiMax such as equipment maker Qualcomm Inc. and Nokia, are not expected to attend the Monday announcement.

Qualcomm would seem unlikely to join efforts to stimulate WiMax and has expressed interest in another high speed wireless specification known as 802.20, said Craig Mathias, an analyst at The Farpoint Group in Ashland, Mass. ” Qualcomm is not interested in making it easy for WiMax,” he said.

Qualcomm officials could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Motorola and Qualcomm would still allowed to join, even though they are not expected to attend on Monday, said one person familiar with the discussions. He said the principal function of the group will be to open up WiMax patents held by various vendors to make licensing of future products for networks a cleaner and faster process. Most of the major patent holders have already signed on, he noted.

Regardless of the number of vendors who join a patent alliance, “it only takes one patent holder to cause problems for the rest,” Mathias said. In any technology with numerous players and patents held by various companies, “there will always be the question of whether somebody is stepping on somebody’s intellectual property,” he said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates in Nortboro, Mass., said Motorola might be holding back because of an ongoing massive reorganization that includes splitting off its cell phone business and major management reshufflings.

“If I were Motorola at this point, I would not be joining any new initiatives until I get my house in order and deliver on what I have already committed to,” Gold said.

Several analysts said Motorola is highly interested in WiMax development, a view some company executives have shared. However, Motorola has not shared news about the WiMax field test with Xohm in Chicago, they noted. A Motorola spokeswoman said that the company’s deployments for both Sprint and Clearwire “are progressing well and on schedule” but referred questions to Sprint and Clearwire for more detailed schedules for deployments.

Sprint officials would only say that all parties, presumably including Motorola and others, “are all proceeding with commercial launch preparations.”

Mathias predicted that Xohm under the evolving Clearwire/Sprint joint venture would launch in Chicago and Baltimore/Washington in the fall.

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