Intel backs Wi-Fi to boost Centrino demand

Intel is backing two Wi-Fi public-access networks in the UK and another two in the US to help build the infrastructure needed to...

Intel is backing two Wi-Fi public-access networks in the UK and another two in the US to help build the infrastructure needed to support demand for computers equipped with its Centrino mobile processor.

The new chip, which features built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, is scheduled to debut tomorrow.

The chip maker has formed a joint marketing campaign with Toshiba Computer Systems Group (to promote the use of Wi-Fi public-access hot spots. Last week, Toshiba launched its "hot spot in a box" project to install 10,0000 Wi-Fi public-access nodes in the US by the end of the year.

In December, Intel, AT&T and IBM formed Cometa Networks to back development of a nationwide Wi-Fi network, with the aim of jump-starting public-access wireless Lan development and deployment so that Wi-Fi hot spots are within a five-minute walk from any spot in urban America or within a five-minute drive in the suburbs, according to Intel spokesman Daniel Francisco.

Last week, Inspired Broadcast Networks in London announced plans to deploy a UK-wide Wi-Fi network called "The Cloud" to more than 3,000 sites - primarily pubs - by the end of this year. That initiative would be in partnership with Intel and is also linked to the Centrino launch.

Intel Capital, made an investment of an undisclosed amount last month in London-based Broadreach Networks, which operates 4,000 hot spots throughout the UK. Virgin Group is also an investor in Broadreach, and Robert Samuelson, Virgin's director of corporate development, said Broadreach is interested in deploying Wi-Fi public-access hot spots at its music stores and rail operations.

Intel also disclosed that its capital unit made an undisclosed investment in Pronto Networks, which provides provisioning, configuration and authentication services for carriers operating Wi-Fi networks. Intel Capital has also invested in, which provides roaming services Wi-Fi network operators.

On the Wi-Fi hardware side, Vivato has received an unspecified investment from Intel. Vivato has developed a wireless antenna which, it claimed, boosted the range of wireless signals from hundreds of feet to four miles.

Sean Maloney, Intel executive vice president and general manager of the company's communications group, said that the Vivato investment was part of the company's strategy to build "an ecosystem of complementary technologies that will drive demand for Intel's mobile computing products".

Read more on Wireless networking