Motorola damns WiMAX with faint praise
Proprietary backhaul play
Comment The real question about Canopy Wireless, now launched - 30 months late - in Europe, is not merely "what took you so long?" but "Why are you singing from Intel's song book about regulation, but not about WiMAX?"
Regulation is what has held up Canopy. It's a proprietary solution for providing wireless alternatives to expensive leased lines, when feeding the Internet into inaccessible areas.
It comes as no surprise that Motorola launched Canopy, its next-generation high-speed wireless broadband system, in Europe 30 months after it first shipped in North America. What is remarkable is the fact that Motorola hasn't joined Intel on the WiMAX bandwagon with Canopy.
The reason is probably simple: Motorola doesn't sell PC chips.
Today, Canopy is a backhaul technology. You sell it to people who have licences; they set up networks of wireless and then convert the data signal into an ordinary Ethernet socket. Nobody down on the ground can pick up the signal, or decode it (at least, in theory!) any more than you can plug into the microwave telecoms beacons in those tall towers that link major cities.
What Intel is selling is the promise that one day, WiMAX will be both backhaul and end-user technology. Instead of waiting for the wideband signal to come down through a local Ethernet port, says Intel, you'll be able to pick it up in your own notebook PC - and all Intel chips will have a WiMAX radio built in.
As to why it is saying this, opinions differ. My own analysis, summarised, is that Intel sees an opportunity to tempt the world's customers to rise up against the world's telcos, and re-organise the regulations. Licences will be required for fewer and fewer systems.
But I don't think WiMAX can deliver on this promise. When you put a WiMAX chip into a PC, it will behave, in most respects, like a Wi-Fi chip. Intel will, of course, carry on selling Wi-Fi chips (Centrino is the foundation of this platform) and it will, when it can, move the Wi-Fi radio onto the processor. But Wi-Fi isn't something that needs a licence.
So promising Wi-Fi on every Pentium doesn't affect the big licence-giving authorities. But promising WiMAX does.
Motorola doesn't want to sell wireless on a cpu chip; it doesn't make enough cpu chips. It does want to sell Canopy, though; and for that to work, it needs licenced spectrum to stay around.
And it has now waited for 18 months to get the licensing people ready for Canopy; and would you, having waited that long, throw it all away to support the dream of WiMAX on behalf of your big rival?