Cisco and Clearwire Pact on WiMax Gear

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Clearwire is trying to get a jump on the pending 4G mobile broadband world by rolling out high-speed WiMax technology: so far the service is up and running Baltimore and Portland, Oregon, and the company is promising more major markets will come online during 2009 with as many as 80 markets online by the end of 2010. To that end, Clearwire and Cisco have just announced a deal that will put Cisco gear at the heart of Clearwire’s core infrastructure…and Cisco plans to roll out WiMax gear for consumers, including routers under its Linksys brand.

“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 Clearwire’s Chief Strategy Officer Scott Richardson, in a statement. “In addition, Cisco plans to develop WiMax technology for end-user devices, which will give consumers and businesses more compelling ways to stay connected.”

Under the deal, Cisco will be the primary IP network solution provider for Clearwire’s 4G network. Clearwire is currently selecting and certifying a range of Cisco gear, including the widely-deployed Series 7600 routers, plus firewalls and network management tools. The deal doesn’t mark Cisco’s first foray into WiMax: the company is also supplying mobile WiMax infrastructure to wireless operators in Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan.

Cisco also plans to roll out converged Wi-Fi/WiMax devices targeting home users plus small to medium-sized businesses under Cisco’s Linksys brand, with the first devices due to hit market before the end of the year. Although numerous partners have announced their intention to offer WiMax capabilities in their products, WiMax is currently facing a chicken-and-egg problem: without a wide market penetration, few consumers want to invest in WiMax technologies, which means there’s little incentive for equipment makers to offer WiMax. Current consumer WiMax offerings are mostly limited to products from Clearwire itself, as well as WiMax modules for notebook computers.

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