Consumers in the not-too-distant future are going to expect more mobile bandwidth than today's 3G networks are capable of providing, and Intel intends to ensure the upcoming demand for additional capacity is met with WiMAX-powered 4G networks. As part of that initiative, Intel, Clearwire, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Samsung, and Sprint collectively announced the formation of the Open Patent Alliance (OPA) today. The purpose of the organization is to "advance a competitive and open intellectual property rights model, thus stimulating a larger WiMAX industry that supports innovation through broader choice and lower equipment and service costs for WiMAX technology, devices and applications globally."
The new, Intel-led initiative is similar to a coalition between Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NextWave Wireless, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Sony Ericsson announced back on April 15. Although the two groups are backing different technologies (WiMax for Intel, Long Term Evolution for Nokia), both were formed to facilitate the licensing of various patents held by their various corporate members. Unfortunately, both groups also face the same stumbling block: Qualcomm. As we've previously discussed, Qualcomm is believed to hold several patents important to the 4G standard, and thus far, the company hasn't shown any sign that it's interested in participating in either organization.
Intel's press release makes no specific mention of Qualcomm, but the chip giant is clearly hoping to convince all significant patent holders to join the OPA. At some point in the near future, "The OPA will issue a call for WiMAX essential patents for inclusion in its patent pool. An independent third-party reviewer will serve as the 'patent referee' and will evaluate submitted patents to determine how essential they are to the WiMAX standard and WiMAX Forum profiles. While the OPA initially will focus its efforts on the WiMAX standard, it may work with other industry groups in the future."
The OPA also stated that it intends to bring a group of six to nine investor companies aboard. No names were mentioned, though the organization did note that its investors would have a "broad geographic representation."
The cross-licensing agreement is a significant step for WiMAX, but the absence of Qualcomm from the agreement means that there could still be some protracted legal battles in the future for both competing 4G technologies.
WiMax has been having a tough time - this is good news