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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Joint Venture Aims For Wireless Internet

CHICAGO -- In what is being billed as the next giant step in the Internet revolution, the Motorola Corp., the maker of wireless communications products, and Cisco Systems Inc., which provides Internet equipment, said Monday that they will form an alliance to build the world's largest wireless Internet system.

The project is the most ambitious effort yet to build a global network that would enable businesses and consumers to have high-speed Internet access to e-mail and faxes without the burden of wires, cables or even walls.

Analysts say that developing a wireless system could be costly and cumbersome f with competing and incompatible systems trying to transmit bulky data and video into wireless units f officials at Motorola and Cisco say their vision of a world where automobiles could get tuneups by wireless signals and sales executives could obtain company information from a remote place is just beyond the horizon.

"This extends the Internet to a world without wires," said Don Listwin, executive vice president at Cisco, based in San Jose, California.

Over the next four or five years, Motorola and Cisco say they plan to invest more than $1 billion to create a system capable of transmitting voice, data and video over existing cellular telephone stations directly to wireless telephones, laptop computers and other devices.

The system would create a new line of products for Motorola, a new generation of wireless networking gear for Cisco and perhaps even signal the convergence of several existing communications products, like pagers, cellular telephones, televisions, radios and computers. "The goal is that instead of having four or five communication devices in your briefcase, you'll have one or two," said Doug Wills, a spokesman for Cisco.

The two companies also plan to open four joint research and development centers, two in the United States and two abroad.

A critical piece of the puzzle, Motorola and Cisco say, is that the wireless transmissions would be delivered using an Internet Protocol platform that is compatible with all wireless formats. Unlike analog or digital platforms, the companies say that the Internet Protocol, or IP platform, will be able to effectively deliver and bundle voice, data and video feeds through cellular stations.

What is novel about the effort, the companies say, is that they plan to adopt an "open" standard. In other words, they plan to create a wireless industry standard that could be adopted by any company that wants to develop different or competing products. Such an open standard, officials say, would be different from other wireless Internet efforts now under development. The new IP framework will be published this spring in a "white paper," the companies said.

For Motorola, which has stumbled of late in the world of wireless communications, the deal with Cisco is an attempt to help resurrect its reputation as an innovative company. After two years of earnings shortfalls and market-share losses tied to its line of wireless telephones, Motorola has been on an aggressive path to new wireless ventures.

The company, which is based in Schaumburg, Illinois, and had sales of $29 billion in 1998, has a huge stake in Iridium, a satellite venture that offers voice and paging systems. In May, when sharp cuts were being made in its work force, Motorola abandoned a plan to spend $13 billion to build what it called its Internet in the Sky project, a satellite network capable of delivering high-speed data communications anywhere in the world.

Instead, Motorola said it would invest about $750 million in Teledesic, a low-orbit satellite venture that also intends to deliver high-speed access to the Internet, beginning in 2003. The new wireless venture with Cisco, officials at Motorola say, is different but would be compatible with Iridium and Teledesic, which was founded by William Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, and Craig McCaw, the cellular telephone pioneer.

Now, company officials say, they have hit upon a revolutionary scheme. "With this system you can get Internet information any time, anywhere," said Bo Hedfors, senior vice president at Motorola.