Intel, IBM, AT&T join to create Wi-Fi firm
- By John K. Waters
Intel Corp. (http://www.intel.com) last
week made good on its promise to invest $150 million in Wi-Fi technology. The
Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker disclosed that it has joined forces with IBM
(http://www.ibm.com), AT&T (http://www.att.com), and investment concerns Apax
Partners and 3i to form open-access Wi-Fi company Cometa Networks. Financial
details weren't immediately disclosed.
Intel executives say Cometa, previously code-named Project Rainbow, will set
up high-speed wireless Internet access ''hot spots'' in hotels, universities and
other buildings in the 50 largest U.S. cities.
The business plan calls for Cometa Networks to provide services to
telecommunications companies, ISPs, cable operators and wireless carriers, who
then can offer wireless Internet access capabilities using Wi-Fi technology,
also called 802.11, to customers. Cometa will also offer wireless Internet
access to enterprise customers through the participating carriers, officials
Cometa's service will be designed to make it possible for users to keep
existing sign-on procedures, e-mail addresses, IDs, passwords and payment
methods, whether they are accessing the Internet via an ISP, corporate virtual
private network, telecommunications provider or cable operator, according to
The agreement calls for AT&T to bring network infrastructure and
management to the enterprise and for IBM to provide wireless site installations
and back-office systems. Intel's contribution, according to Cometa CEO Lawrence
Brilliant, will be the new wireless-specific processor, code-named Banias, which
the firm promises will begin shipping during the first half of 2003.
The new system will not be Intel-dependent, insisted Brilliant. ''Provided
that they adhere to 802.11 standards, any user radio can use our network,'' he
Brilliant contends that Wi-Fi technology can ultimately extend the
distributed computing model to the general public by making it ''easier to access
reports, customer information and e-mail using existing Internet accounts,'' he
Cometa Networks' 802.11 network access is set to begin rolling out during
2003 in top 50 U.S. urban markets. Reportedly, the company is currently in talks
with customers and additional partners.
''Cometa Networks plans to achieve critical economies of scale by building on
the retail brands and customer reach of service providers,'' said Theodore
Schell, Cometa's chairman and general partner of investor Apax Partners. He
added that the investors' goal is to ''provide the quality of service, nationwide
footprint and seamless integration into corporate networks that will stand the
test of demanding enterprises.''
Cometa officials said the new firm will first establish offices in San
Francisco and New York.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached