Alcatel-Lucent invests in WiMax chip company

Alcatel-Lucent SA has invested in WiMax chip maker Sequans Communications, the latest show of support for the emerging long-range wireless networking technology.

The companies did not reveal the size of the investment but said it extends a US$24 million round of financing that Sequans raised last year.

The companies are both based in France and have worked together in the past. Last year they said they would make a low-cost end-user WiMax device for developing countries. They expect to start production of that product in the second quarter.

Alcatel, which completed its merger with Lucent late last year, has also worked with Intel Corp., a Sequans competitor. Alcatel and Intel have said often that they would collaborate on the development of WiMax technologies, including field trials of new products.

Before the merger, Lucent sold WiMax products using gear from Alvarion Ltd., which uses Intel chips.

Intel worked aggressively to develop a market for WiMax. Nonetheless, other chip makers including Sequans, Fujitsu Ltd. and Wavesat Inc. have emerged as competitors.

Motorola Inc. also invested an undisclosed sum in Sequans late last year.

After years of development, WiMax is just beginning to pick up steam. U.S. operator Sprint Nextel Corp. intends to build a WiMax network, and Clearwire Corp. has built several networks in Europe and parts of the U.S.

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