RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – If Clearwire’s Craig McCaw, Intel and Motorola have their way, WiMax is going to become a major technology play for the delivery of broadband services to consumers as well as businesses.

Clearwire closed on $900 million in financing last week from chip giant Intel and communications device manufacturer Motorola as it gears up for further network expansion. Clearwire, which already offers service in North Carolina with coverage of the Triad, is the latest tech venture from McCaw, a wireless pioneer.

The $600 million influx of capital from Intel and $300 million more from Motorola led to Clearwire’s decision to cancel an initial public offering. Motorola also bought a Clearwire subsidiary that manufacturers WiMax gear. Clearwire offers market coverage in 13 states, and Raleigh was recently added to its “Coming Soon” list.

Services include business and individual packages as well as voice over Internet protocol telephony.

Intel’s investment is a tremendous boost for WiMax technology, wrote Eric Griffith in Wi-Fi Planet.

“The chip giant is betting on WiMax in a way that far outstrips the support it gave Wi-Fi, which was an established technology at the time Intel Centrino started to arrive in laptops,” Griffith said. “By putting even more money in Clearwire, it increases the chances of mobile WiMax becoming a market reality that will sell Intel’s WiMax chips in the future.”

According to Griffith, Intel Centrino-based laptops with MiMax technology could be available in 2007.

Glenn Fleishman, blogging at WiFiNet News, believes Clearwire could be a big success.

“Clearwire has a particular set of advantages,” he wrote. “They have Intel’s attention. They have a chunk of spectrum licenses. They have a technology that works. And they have an audience that wants truly large-area mobile service from anyone but the incumbents—even if that’s just for competitive sake to drive prices down.

“Clearwire will execute, there’s no doubt, and the question will be whether they can acquire enough customers at the right price to turn a profit.”

Clearwire owns licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum in markets that could reach 90 million people, Fleishman added.

Carmen Nobel, senior editor at Light Reading, notes that the other big 2.5 GHz spectrum holder is Sprint Nextel. (BellSouth also owns some spectrum and is experimenting with its own wireless broadband offerings.) But Sprint’s plans for WiMax remain unclear.

“Intel won’t say whether or not it is putting any money behind Sprint’s decision,” Nobel wrote.

“One $600 million-dollar investment a week is probably sufficient,” Kent Cook, an Intel spokesman, told Nobel. “We’re certainly in discussions with Sprint,” Cook said. “Anything that expands the range of WiMax we’re definitely interested in.”