Clearwire to sell equipment unit to Motorola

Motorola Inc. will buy the broadband wireless equipment business of Clearwire Corp. as part of a set of deals intended to help jump-start mobile WiMax, the companies announced Wednesday.

Clearwire, in Kirkland, Washington, was founded by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw and provides broadband services designed to work outside a home or office and even in a moving car. Clearwire's services first launched in 2004 in Jacksonville, Florida. They came out ahead of mobile WiMax, an emerging system based on the IEEE 802.16e specification, and have been highlighted by Intel Corp. in its aggressive promotion of the technology. Clearwire owns NextNet Wireless Inc., which develops the technology used to deliver the Clearwire service.

Motorola now has agreed to buy NextNet, taking ClearWire out of the hardware business and helping the Schaumburg, Illinois, wireless giant fill out its WiMax technology stable. The companies didn't disclose the terms of the proposed acquisition.

Also Wednesday, Intel announced that its Intel Capital division has invested US$600 million in ClearWire as part of a $900 million funding round in which Motorola also participated. All the transactions are subject to regulatory approvals.

Clearwire offers service directly or through partners in more than 200 cities and towns in the U.S. Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Mexico. NextNet gear is also used in other service providers' networks and is deployed on five continents, according to the companies. Intel and Motorola will help Clearwire deliver a standards-based mobile WiMax infrastructure, the companies said.

Mobile WiMax is an emerging technology expected to hit the market next year. It is intended to deliver speeds over 1M bps (bit per second) over distances of a few kilometers or more to mobile users.

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