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Intel Funds Four More Wireless Companies

Times Staff Writer

As part of an effort to spend $150 million to kick-start the market for wireless Web surfing, Intel Corp. said Monday that it was investing in four companies, including two in California, that develop equipment and software for wireless Internet access.

While many technology sectors remain weak, wireless fidelity -- dubbed Wi-Fi -- is promising. Wireless networks in homes, offices and public areas such as hotels and convention centers allow users to surf the Web and access their e-mail without having to plug into a fixed location.

“These investments are part of Intel’s efforts to help accelerate the deployment of high-speed wireless networks worldwide,” said Mark Christensen, Intel vice president and director of Intel Capital’s communications sector. “These companies represent the ecosystem of Wi-Fi companies that will make widespread adoption of wireless broadband a reality.”

The Santa Clara, Calif., chip maker said it invested an undisclosed amount in Pronto Networks of Pleasanton, Calif., which produces software that enables “hot spots” where users can go online wirelessly; San Francisco-based Vivato, which makes equipment that expands the range of wireless access; RovingIP.net in Bellevue, Wash., a clearinghouse for Wi-Fi service providers; and Broadreach Networks Ltd. in London, a high-speed Internet access provider.

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Intel has invested in 11 other wireless companies since 1999.

The investments come at a time of accelerated activity on the wireless front. Also Monday, Intel said it was teaming up with Borders Group Inc. to promote wireless access at more than 400 Borders bookstores nationwide.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen computer manufacturers will unveil laptop computers using Intel’s Centrino chip packages, which use a newly developed Pentium microprocessor to run wireless applications.

Shares of Intel fell 11 cents to $15.90 on Nasdaq.


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