Intel ignites Wi-Fi hopes

Intel's discussions last week with RoamAD, an Auckland-based firm that has developed a metropolitan area Wi-Fi network, could be significant given the chipmaker's recent major investment announcements in wireless technology.

Intel’s discussions last week with RoamAD, an Auckland-based firm that has developed a metropolitan area Wi-Fi network, could be significant given the chipmaker’s recent major investment announcements in wireless technology.

Intel is investing $US150 million in companies working with Wi-Fi. Next year it plans to roll out Banias, a mobile computing platform, and last week publicly announced it has teamed up with AT&T and IBM to build Cometa Networks, a US-wide network of Wi-Fi access points.

Cometa will work on a reseller basis, selling Wi-Fi services to telcos and ISPs. Intel will provide the chips and some technology, AT&T the network, while IBM will work with “hot spot” providers and provide servers to manage the areas where users can gain access.

Steve Duvall (pictured) is Intel’s Australia-New Zealand director of strategic investment, or technical point man for the region. Duvall, who was formerly based at Intel’s California headquarters and took up the role just over a year ago, visited New Zealand to talk to companies Intel Capital, Intel’s investment subsidiary, may take a stake in.

Duvall admits security is still a big issue for Wi-Fi networks and says Intel is working on it with some of the companies it has invested in.

“There are two Australian software companies we have invested in that work in that area.”

While he has had discussions with RoamAD — which is yet to sign up a telco reseller — Right Hemisphere and others, Intel Capital is yet to make an investment in New Zealand.

He says, nevertheless, that “there’s a lot of interesting technology in all of them”.

Duvall, who is also an Intel fellow — it’s not part of some inner circle within the company but a title given to those who have risen through the company on the technical side, he says — wouldn’t reveal the Intel Capital Australia-New Zealand budget, saying “we invest off-balance sheet”.

He came to New Zealand courtesy of Investment New Zealand.

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