WiMAX, which is short for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a standards-based wireless technology that provides high-throughput broadband connections. Think of it as a faster version of current Wi-Fi technology, able to cover vastly larger distances. When fully enabled, the system will give users -- including Sprint customers -- the bandwidth they need to stream videos to their cell phones or download songs directly to their portable music players, among other data-intensive activities.
Sprint's choice of WiMAX is great news for Intel, because it's a major supplier of WiMAX chips. A growing audience for this enriched multimedia environment should keep chip demand growing, which in turn should help Intel regain some of the momentum it has lost to Advanced Micro Devices
Perhaps more significant for Intel, however, are the future applications that WiMAX will enable. I've written before about Intel's long-term plans, and I've come to believe that as computer chips move beyond cell phones and laptops to become embedded throughout our environment -- even in our bodies -- WiMAX's type of ubiquitous communication will come to be viewed as an essential element for navigating, prospering in, and surviving in tomorrow's brave new world.
The WiMAX system is not expected to provide nationwide coverage until at least 2008, but Sprint's decision to select that standard gives Intel a big victory in the first leg of what will be a very long and important race.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is the author of two books on nanotechnology, including Investing in Nanotechnology: Think Small, Win Big. He owns stock in Intel. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.