Zander Gets WiMaxcited

NEW YORK -- Ed Zander, the sparky CEO of Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), just can't get excited enough about WiMax -- or intellectual property, for that matter.

Speaking here at the Citigroup technology conference, the Moto boss -- invigorated by many recent trips abroad during which, he said, he witnessed an "explosion" of mobile devices in the emerging markets -- said his company is gearing up for an all-out blitz on broadband access technology that includes infrastructure, intellectual property, and devices.

He sees the WiMax standard as one of the biggest opportunities in years: "It reminds me of 1993 when we were talking about the Internet."

Motorola is a significant investor in WiMax, with its largest project being a partnership with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Sprint Wireless (NYSE: PCS) to roll out a nationwide WiMax network in the U.S., for which Motorola will be developing handset products. It also has the "MotoWi4" portfolio of WiMax technologies that includes the Canopy wireless technology for unlicensed spectrum. (See WiMax Ramps Up.)

Zander said the open-standards approach of WiMax will make it a natural success for mobile broadband access, whereas 3G technologies have become too expensive. The 3G market has been fragmented by battles between the GSM and CDMA camps, with CDMA still dominated by Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) and its patents on the technology.

That it's an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard is "the best thing about WiMax," Zander said. "There are multiple chip implementations based on open standards. The role of innovation -- that's what open systems do for you."

Zander said WiMax trials will emerge in 2007 and the technology will begin to take hold in 2008. "I really believe that by 2007 and 2008 we'll see trials. This will be very disruptive. It will probably happen first outside the United States because there are fewer telephone poles and 3G is very expensive."

Apparently WiMax isn't all Zander gets excited about -- he also momentarily lost his cool while taking questions from the audience, publicly chastising a fund manager.

Joan Lappin, chairman of Gramercy Capital Management Corp., asked Zander why he had recently described Motorola as having little in the way of an intellectual property portfolio when he arrived -- the claim being that Zander was distorting perceptions of the impact he has had at the company. The question prompted a prickly response.

"I know you had dinner with Chris," Zander said. (At the time, we have no word on who Chris is.) "I'm not going to answer that question." Then, addressing the audience, Zander said: "This woman is conflicted. She's a troublemaker."

After some snickers in the audience, Zander moved on to the next question.

When asked about the exchange later, Lappin said Zander, at a recent analyst meeting, claimed Motorola built most of its intellectual property portfolio after his arrival.

"I can't believe that," said Lappin, referring to Zander's outburst. "That's not the way a chairman of a Fortune 500 company behaves."

— R. Scott Raynovich, Editor in Chief, Light Reading

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