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Intel backs four Wi-Fi networks to boost Centrino demand

By Bob Brewin
March 10, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Intel Corp. has put its marketing muscle and investment capital behind two Wi-Fi public-access networks in the U.S. and another two in the U.K. to help build the infrastructure needed to support demand for computers equipped with its Centrino mobile processor. The new chip, which features built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, is scheduled for a splashy debut in New York on March 12.
Intel announced today that it has formed a joint marketing campaign with Toshiba Computer Systems Group (TCSG) to promote the use of Wi-Fi public-access "hot spots." Last week, Irvine, Calif.-based TCSG launched its "hot spot in a box" project to install 10,0000 Wi-Fi public-access nodes in the U.S. by year's end (see story).
"Intel and Toshiba are working together to advance wireless computing for mobile PC users by enabling broadband hot spots across the country," Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms Group, said in a statement. "Our joint efforts provide business customers and consumers with the mobile computing devices and the network that enables the freedom and flexibility to wirelessly work and play."
In December, Intel, AT&T Corp. and IBM formed Cometa Networks Inc. to back development of a nationwide Wi-Fi network (see story). The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based company's goal is to jump-start public-access wireless LAN development and deployment so that Wi-Fi hot spots are within a five-minute walk from any spot in urban America or within a five-minute drive in the suburbs, according to Intel spokesman Daniel Francisco.
Efforts to expand wireless access are also gathering steam in the U.K. Last week, Inspired Broadcast Networks in London announced plans to deploy a nationwide Wi-Fi network called "The Cloud" to more than 3,000 sites -- primarily pubs -- by the end of this year. That initiative would be done in partnership with Intel and is also linked to the Centrino launch, according to Stacy Smith, vice president and general manager of Intel's Europe, Middle East and Africa division.
Intel Capital, the company's investment arm, made an investment of an undisclosed amount last month in London-based Broadreach Networks Ltd., which operates 4,000 hot spots throughout the U.K. Virgin Group Ltd. is also an investor in Broadreach, and Robert Samuelson, Virgin's director of corporate development, said the London-based company is interested in deploying Wi-Fi public-access hot spots at its music stores and rail operations.
Intel also disclosed that its capital unit made an undisclosed investment in Pleasanton, Calif-based Pronto Networks Inc., which provides provisioning, configuration and authentication services for carriers that operate Wi-Fi networks. Intel Capital has also invested in Bellevue, Corp., which provides roaming services Wi-Fi network operators.
On the Wi-Fi hardware side, Vivato Inc. said today that it has received an unspecified investment from Intel. San Francisco-based Vivato has developed a wireless antenna that it claims boosts the range of wireless signals from hundreds of feet to four miles.
Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the company's communications group, said in a statement that the Vivato investment is part of the company's strategy to build "an ecosystem of complementary technologies that will drive demand for Intel's mobile computing products."

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.

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