The Road To WiMAX

The $90 billion gardening bill was a deal killer. Intel Executive Vice-President Sean M. Maloney sat in stunned silence after a telephone company executive told him it would cost $1,100 per home just to replace landscaping and sidewalks if the industry installed fiber-optic cabling and brought superfast broadband Internet access to every single-family home in America.This was in 2002, during a secret meeting organized by Maloney at a hotel near Intel’s Silicon Valley headquarters. He had offered a handful of telecom executives Intel’s help in paying for the massive fiber-laying project. Sales growth for Intel’s microprocessors had flattened during the tech slowdown, and Intel was hoping wide broadband adoption by consumers would goose demand for new PCs with the company’s most powerful chips in them. Maloney was willing to help get things started. Then they shocked him with the price tag: $300 a foot for gear and installation, and a gardening bill on top of that. That seemed like an insurmountable hurdle to Maloney and his companions.Maloney led an industrywide effort to develop and market what was in 2002 an obscure wireless broadband technology only a few hundred engineers had heard of. Indeed, after logging hundreds of thousands of air miles, he has rounded up a remarkable coalition of chip, PC, consumer electronics, networking, and software companies in an effort to radically reshape the future of broadband with what’s now called WiMAX.

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