Cisco, Clearwire Form WiMAX Alliance

Cisco announced today that it has formed an alliance with Clearwire, the WiMAX company which is majority-owned by Sprint Nextel. Clearwire began rolling out its first WiMAX networks—now branded “Clear”—last year and currently serves two U.S. metropolitan areas: Baltimore, MD and Portland, OR.

According to a joint statement issued today by Clearwire and Cisco, the alliance is “designed to enhance and expand Clear 4G mobile WiMAX services throughout the United States.” Cisco will become Clearwire’s national Internet Protocol Next-Generation Network (IP NGN) core infrastructure provider and will also build new consumer mobile WiMAX devices for the Clear mobile WiMAX service. Cisco converged WiMAX and Wi-Fi-enabled devices are in the works, including products from Cisco’s Linksys by Cisco line of consumer routers. Cisco says its first consumer WiMAX device will be available by the end of the year.

The alliance means that Sprint and Clearwire’s big investment in WiMAX may eventually pay off. For its part, Cisco is banking on its projection that mobile data traffic will increase a thousand-fold over the seven years from 2005 through 2012, with demand for video being a major component. The Cisco/Clearwire alliance includes a multi-year network build-out plan to make the Clear 4G mobile WiMAX service available in 80 major metropolitan areas across the country in less than two years, including the San Francisco Bay Area, where service is scheduled to launch in 2010.

Cisco also supplies mobile WiMAX infrastructure to Russian wireless ISP Scartel, Georgian mobile operator MagtiCom, and AsiaBell’s mobile WiMAX service in central Kazakhstan. [More on WiMAX in Eastern Europe here.]

Free to developers

Clearwire and Cisco also recently announced their involvement in forming the WiMAX Innovation Network for developers, which will initially cover more than 20 square miles in Silicon Valley. The network will deliver 4G wireless service to “leading technology innovators,” including Google and Intel. Service will be provided free to qualified developers for one year. Clearwire will provide WiMAX USB Modems for $49.99.

“By teaming with Cisco, one of the world’s most forward-looking IP network infrastructure providers, we’re building a robust and cost-efficient next-generation network that’s designed specifically for delivering rich broadband services,” said Scott Richardson, Chief Strategy Officer of Clearwire in a statement today. “In addition, Cisco plans to develop WiMAX technology for end-user devices, which will give consumers and businesses more compelling ways to stay connected through our Clear 4G service.”

Open minded

Clearwire and Cisco are also founding members of the Open Patent Alliance (OPA), which was formed last June. The OPA is a consortium of companies who have come together as an LLC “to advance a competitive, open intellectual property rights model, thus stimulating a larger WiMAX industry that supports innovation through broader choice and lower equipment and service costs globally.”

“Clearwire’s ecosystem of partners, coupled with our all-IP next-generation network, will deliver a true mobile broadband experience,” said Ned Hooper, senior vice president, corporate development and consumer of Cisco in today’s statement. “In addition, incorporating WiMAX into our products will help enable people to move freely throughout the United States, while maintaining continuous connectivity to personalized applications and services.”

Clearwire lost $118 million in 4Q08. The company is scheduled to announce its 1Q09 financial results later today (4 p.m. EDT).

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-Fi Planet. She has been writing about technology for fifteen years. Follow her on Twitter. Join Wi-Fi Planet on Facebook. For more on WiMAX, click here.

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