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KAI RYSSDAL: Just so we're clear, it's WiMax. W-I-M-A-X is how you spell it. It's the follow on to Wi-Fi. Another way to put it would be $14.5 billion worth of Internet. That's the price-tag on the deal announced today by Sprint and a company called Clearwire. If all the digital ones and zeros line up right, WiMax would make it possible for you to be online essentially all the time. The profit potential there is mind boggling, which is why a slew of high-tech and telecommunications companies climbed on the bandwagon today as well: Comcast, Time Warner, Intel, even Google.

Marketplace's Lisa Napoli has the story.

LISA NAPOLI: If you love having wireless in your house, you're really going to love WiMax. Just think, speedy Net connections, no wires, with the range of a cell phone network.

DECLAN BYRNE: We've all been sort of waiting for this. This is really the tipping point in our estimation.

Declan Byrne is with Airspan, a company that makes WiMax equipment. He says people have been talking about the potential of this technology for a while. Verizon Wireless and AT&T have announced they're getting into the game, but this new joint venture among cable, telecom, and tech players, called Clearwire, could be up and running far sooner. Analyst Glenn Fleishman, of Wi-Fi Networking News, says WiMax means all-access, all the time.

GLENN FLEISHMAN: This is going to deliver something like the home broadband experience wherever you go. This is going to boost that to the next level, and it's also going to be competitive and supplementary in some markets where you can't get good cable and DSL service.

Now providing wireless broadband to rural areas is one benefit of WiMax, but the thing that's got everyone really excited is WiMax's ability to let you do even more, even faster with your cell phone, like downloading videos and movies. Tricia Duryee, of mocoNews.net, says that's why Google has plunked down half a billion dollars to be part of the Clearwire deal.

TRICIA DURYEE: They're seeing WiMax as a way to get all of their applications onto a wireless network.

Since to many companies, not just Google, the mobile phone is the immediate future of the Internet.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.