What the iPhone Needs Now

As a dad, disruptive behavior annoys me. But as an investor, I love the upstart firms that break with conventional thinking, disrupt incumbents, and in the process, unleash billions in value. Israel's Altair Semiconductor might be that sort of company, and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) could be one of its benefactors.

iPhone unleashed
Last week, privately held Altair closed a $22 million third round of funding for its chips, which can process almost any type of communications signal, including classic cellular and the competing WiMAX and LTE wireless voice and data standards, among others.

Of those three, WiMAX most interests me. With support for long-range wireless Internet embedded in your iPhone, and the right software, you'd be able to circumvent cellular costs and make calls over the Internet any time you're within range of a WiMAX network. That kind of access shouldn't be hard to get. An existing application called Truphone transforms the iPhone's Wi-Fi antenna into a conduit for telephony, and it's just a matter of time before Skype appears in the App Store's digital aisles.

iPhone on a leash
LTE would offer similar promise -- if it weren't backed by the telcos. Call it the don't-bother-with-that-super-cheap-WiMAX-stuff alternative, from iPhone partner AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and equipment maker Alcatel Lucent (NYSE: ALU  ) , among others.

So far, Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR  ) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) are leaders in developing WiMAX networks here in the United States, though Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , Comcast, and Time Warner Cable also back the technology domestically. Globally, Altair's Israeli peer, Alvarion (Nasdaq: ALVR  ) , has supplied equipment for more than 200 deployments around the world.  

Many of those deployments focus on broadband Web access. But with Altair's technology, many more could be made to support telephony. What better place to start than right here, in the good ol' U.S. of A.?

Brrrrring! Pick up the iPhone, Apple. It's a disruptor calling.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is so wireless that he sometimes writes from the easy chair in the family room. He owned shares of Alvarion, which is also one of his picks for the Motley Fool Rule Breakers service. Here's how to try this market-beating newsletter free for 30 days. Get access to all of Tim's Foolish writings here.

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Intel and Sprint Nextel are Inside Value picks. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy floats like a butterfly but stings like a bee.


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