Thursday, October 12, 2006

TSkeptical Qualcomm crashes WiMax lovefest

wo developments in the past year have given WiMax, the wireless broadband technology that promises high-speed Internet access to almost any device anywhere, virtually unstoppable momentum. One is Kirkland-based Clearwire's expanding national WiMax rollout. The other was Sprint Nextel's decision to use it to build nationwide wireless broadband networks.

The energy generated by these moves is noticeable at WiMax World, an annual industry conference that kicks off today in Boston, with some preliminary events held Tuesday.

But not every company at the conference is high on WiMax, even though the two major commitments for two nationwide networks clearly put it ahead of other technologies.

Enter Qualcomm.

The San Diego wireless giant is at WiMax World to explain its alternative technology and provide what may be the sole opposition to WiMax at the conference.

Qualcomm was one of the companies competing to win Sprint Nextel's business to help build a national, next-generation network. It was thought to have a good chance, given that it provides the CDMA technology that supports Sprint's cellphone network.

Furthermore, it purchased a company called Flarion Technology, which conducted a successful wireless-broadband trial with Nextel before Sprint acquired Nextel. So the news that WiMax, and not Qualcomm's technology, would be the backbone of Sprint's wireless broadband network, put Qualcomm on the defense.