Nov 21, 2008

Business - Intel likely to invest in Indian WiMax operators

Joji Thomas Philip & Rashmi Pratap

SAN FRANCISCO: Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, plans to make strategic investments in the WiMax rollouts undertaken by Indian telcos. Intel
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The company is open to investing in ‘one or perhaps even more’ Indian operators, Intel Capital’s vice-president Sriram Viswanathan told ET.

Mr Viswanathan, who is also the GM for the company’s WiMax programme said Intel Capital had already invested in several Indian companies that make hardware and software applications work on this technology platform, while adding that more such deals were in the pipeline.

Intel has successfully invested in WiMax rollouts of telcos globally. For instance, the chipmaker has put in $1 billion into Sprint’s WiMax arm Xohm in the United States to pick up a minority stake in the company.

Earlier this week, Intel announced it would invest $11.5 million in Taiwanese carrier VMAX Telecom to help it develop the island nation’s first fourth-generation mobile network. “You beat the recession by investing. Intel Capital has enviable resources for investments in new technology ventures,” Mr Viswanathan said.

Asked if strategic investments in multiple operators in India could have an adverse impact as these telcos are competing against each other, Mr Vishwanathan said: “We are not a vendor. We don’t sell them anything. We have a history of managing relationships with different players in the same market.”

WiMax is a technology that allows the user to access high-speed internet and other data applications wirelessly, and is considered a threat to third-generation (3G) telecom technology since both platforms are used for similar applications.

Currently, all telecom services in India are offered using second-generation (2G) cellular technology. Mr Vishwanathan also pointed out that since WiMax was a relatively new platform, its early deployment in India would enable the country to drive the evolution of this technology.

“This may perhaps be the first time that India will be able to take a lead in technology evolution. The country presents phenomenal opportunity for WiMax. We are happy that the Indian government is going ahead with the auctions of 3G and WiMAx spectrum (airwaves on which the communication signals travel) simultaneously. It is also good that the reserve price of WiMax radio frequencies is half that for 3G,” he added.

Intel also demonstrated several handheld communication devices that are in the prototype stage. These devices carry almost complete functionalities of a PC while being a touch larger then the existing smartphones in the market.

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