Backing Off 4G WiMAX? Hold Your Horses

There is a report out of Taiwan overnight that Intel has shut down its 4G WiMAX Program office and is backing off the standard. This story has sparked a couple of dozen others. Here’s Intel’s perspective.

As usual, these sites rarely name sources. In this case, there is some accurate info, but also some half truths and assumptions. First, WiMAX continues to expand, and could cover as 800M potential users by the end of the year. To date, there are some 500 networks in 147 countries, including dozens of US cities (with Boston, New York, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, D.C. and others on tap later, too).

Elsewhere for example, VMAX launched their commercial WiMAX network in Taiwan in March, now covering almost 3 million people and last month, Vee and Intel announced an MOU to help enable the end users’ experience in WiMAX technology through the Vee’s WiMAX network. Huawei became the number one TEM in the world last year, with 65 commercial WiMAX deployment contracts across the globe. In March, Motorola announced they doubled the size of their global WiMAX CPE business in less than 6 months. All told, about 200 Intel-based laptop models are offered with WiMAX embedded inside from dozens of notebook PC makers.

People who use the technology and its super-fast and wide coverage are loving the new norm it creates in socializing, entertaining and communicating on our laptops and other devices. It’s exciting to see WiMAX, and other high-speed wireless endeavors, coming to our cities and communities. Consumers benefit, and Intel, our high-speed chips and arguably the entire high-tech industry benefits as well.

There has never been one single wireless standard out there, and WiMAX, LTE, 3G et al will all co-exist. And who knows, others will probably pop up, too, in the coming years. As we’ve said before, 4G WiMAX and LTE are very similar and Intel could support both technologies. Should LTE or other wireless technologies flourish, common sense says we’d be foolish to not ensure our ambitious Atom processor growth plans in cars, phones, netbooks, tablets, TVs etc. supported multiple wireless formats.

None of these means we are backing off of WiMAX. Just last week Clearwire announced a cool deal here in the US with Best Buy on more WiMAX-enabled laptops for back to school and holiday.

As for the WiMAX Program Office. Intel forms program offices to help create, support and get a technology, standard (and/or new customer) into market as fast as possible. We have a handful of them around the corporation. By definition, these offices are temporary. And that’s what has happened in the case of WiMAX. That office was formed some four years ago, and in that time, the standard was complete; testing and full-scale deployments have happened (>500 worldwide); and heck, even a really popular phone among several other devices have hit the market. The standards group has even identified the next generation enhanced 802.16e specification.

So for us, the mission of getting WiMAX off the ground and in the market is accomplished. The folks working in the program office merely are being housed under our existing Intel business groups.

Now, as we make these Office changes, we do communicate them confidentially to key customers, partners and governments. I am checking if/how we communicated the change in and around Taiwan. But regardless, we apologize in advance if we didn’t communicate appropriately and in a timely manner.

Now, a question for all of you. Intel, and most companies, don’t usually announce minor (or in some cases major) internal org changes. We did debate internally whether we should have said something here, but it sets a precedent for having to maybe do that on all of our moves, which at a company this large is very often. What would you have done?

5 Responses to Backing Off 4G WiMAX? Hold Your Horses

  1. Natalia Rudenko says:

    Of course, Intel’s promice to build in WiMaX chipset in any laptop is extremely important, and if kept, it supports WiMAX dramatically.
    For the WiMAX fast growing one thing is really crucual -and it was needed yesterday. It is WiMAX forum standartisation of any frequency band below 1GHz for the WiMAX deployment.If so,it is not so critical, how many offices the company has.
    Truly yours-
    N.Rudenko

  2. Mike Magee says:

    Told us. Also, appropriating the term 4G for WiMAX – as Intel and Sprint have done – is a little bit misleading to your average punter, don’t you think?

  3. This story was originally published in the Taiwanese news source Digitimes on Thursday 1 July 2010.
    Please clarify – Is this decision to dissolve the Intel WiMAX Program Office specific to Taiwan or for the entire Intel WiMAX Program Office worldwide?
    For many countries, the mission of getting WiMAX off the ground has been accomplished. But for certain countries like India – this is the most critical time for Intel to maintain its support for WiMAX as Qualcomm and many other industry lobbiests are calling for new BWA licensees to deploy TD-LTE. The closure of the the Intel WiMAX Program Office in India would be percieved as another indicator that the time-to-market advantage of WiMAX is rapidly diminishing.

  4. Bill Kircos says:

    Berge, thanks for your comment. There is/was only one WiMAX Program office inside Intel, with a worldwide scope. That’s how we run those types of offices inside Intel. We still have, and will have, dedicated teams in the regions — they are now merely integrated as part of our platform organizations, where the majority of our WIMAX resources were already.
    We are very committed to India – and our organizational changes don’t alter that commitment. We do believe that WIMAX is the right technology for India today – WIMAX can quickly bring broadband where technologies like TD-LTE are still a few years away. This is not the time, from an economic perspective, for India to wait.
    I appreciate your view Berge – we know you have been equally committed to seeing India succeed and have been a big champion for WIMAX.

  5. Ling says:

    Hi, Bill, after reading the article, I now so relieved about the WPO dismission, seems Intel still the unswervingly force to promot WIMAX, but message that I am taking away is Intel has to accept the fact 4G WIMAX is gonna be coexisting with LTE, and they are not mutually exclusive. That’s ringing true right?