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Sun 15 Jun 2008 11:02 AM

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Companies team up to plug WiMAX via Open Patent Alliance

Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Intel and others to stimulate WiMAX industry

Six companies have teamed up to promote the adoption of WiMAX technology through the newly-formed Open Patent Alliance (OPA), with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Clearwire, Intel, Samsung and Sprint all involved.

The OPA is tasked with creating a competition and open IP rights model to stimulate innovation while lowering prices for services and WiMAX equipment. Specifically, the OPA has created a WiMAX patent tool, allowing companies to access patent licences from owners at a predictable cost.

The tool further refines the standard defined for the WiMAX Forum and the IEEE; it offers a more competitive royalty structure by charging for the features needed to develop WiMAX products. The OPA will also act as an information resource about the WiMAX ecosystem, while offer up third-party reviewers to act as a patent referee to add patents to its pool.

The body hopes to secure the participation of another six to nine companies, and each member will have a seat on the OPA board of directors.

"As an early and consistent supporter of the WiMAX 802.16e ecosystem, Alcatel-Lucent believes that end-user experiences will drive the broadband wireless revolution," said Philippe Keryer, president of Alcatel-Lucent's mobile access business.

"We are confident that the formation of the Open Patent Alliance, which is fully in line with Alcatel-Lucent's Open CPE Program, will ensure that a broad and diverse set of devices will be available to the consumer, enabling service providers to deliver an unparalleled selection of applications and optimized device form-factors that can unleash the huge potential of broadband wireless anywhere, anytime, that WiMAX enables," he continued.

Barry West, president of Sprint's XoHM WiMAX unit, added: "We expect to unleash wireless innovation with this patent alliance. The open licensing program will help prompt pervasive WiMAX technology. This speeds the day when consumers can enjoy the convenience of WiMAX mobile broadband services on new devices in new places, and experience all the open Internet has to offer."

WiMAX has been increasingly thought of as the answer to long-term penetration issues in the Middle East and Africa, as a way of improving connectivity at low CAPEX/OPEX costs to operators. However, the evolution of 3G technology, in the form of HSPA, and eventually LTE, could limit WiMAX's future market impact. With HSPA USB dongles already in the market, WiMAX is taking time in getting off the ground.

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