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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

VoWLAN? Vo3G? Yesterday's news. Try new VoxMAX! Now with added range!! Er, maybe.

I've written in the past about xG Technology, which claims to have a proprietary approach to RF modulation, which enables it to create wireless broadband networks with hugely better range/power/bandwidth characteristics than all the other more mainstream alternatives (cellular, WiFi, WiMAX, TDD, Flash-OFDM etc).
Like many other observers, I'm still in two minds about xG. It sounds too good to be true, but I still have a sense that there's something very clever there somewhere.

The company has now announced that it is main effort in the near term will be around creating dual-mode WiFi/xMAX VoIP phones and base stations, intended for "grassroots" (ie disruptive) VoIP service providers.

I spoke to the company yesterday, and got some more details. Apparently, the initial devices will be pitched at the US market, using the 900MHz "ISM" unlicenced band. The xMax chips will use FPGAs, available to the company from August. The firm is working with an ODM to design the hardware and software, and the inclusion of WiFi is to enable the transmitter to avoid having to work through walls, using customers' own local connectivity where available. There are no immediate plans to add cellular radios, so to start with, these devices will be aimed at metropolitan/regional operators... or indeed private companies and individual users.

It expects to ship the phones by the end of 2006.

To my mind, the company risks falling into a trap. It appears to have some cool technology - but is not necessarily going about commercialising it in the best way. Unfortunately, in some ways creating the RF and silicon bit of a phone is "the easy bit" - even if its based on ultra-clever radio technology. The tricky stuff is in making the rest of the phone exploit that radio - having a decent voice performance, a good & intuitive user interface, bulletproof security, and having useable & effective applications like contact book and call register & SMS. The other tricky elements are around creating a service - not just rolling out cheap base stations, but the server platform, marketing, billing and customer support. There's no point having a cheap network if every customer has to make 13 phone calls to an agent asking how to configure the phone to use it properly.

Trying to get the "phone" bit of the technology working in less than 6 months is, er, "challenging", in my view.

For wireless VoIP, the devil is in the detail. And details like spelling your own company's URL correctly in the original draft of the press release are the starting point. It's also notable that the company's website lacks a "careers" section for all of you enthusiastic handset UI engineers to browse.

I think it's going to struggle with its self-imposed deadline for these phones, but apparently there's some other enterprise-related products in the wings as well. We'll see....

Incidentally, on the topic of wVoIP... I'm chairing the Osney Media Wireless VoIP conference in Paris over the next two days. Assuming the ongoing French strikes and riots don't extend to the Conference Room Setup Personnel and AV Attendants' Union, that is.

1 comment:

Phil Karn said...

Here are some comments on xG's claims that may interest you:


Basically, I see nothing of interest, and their patents and their website reveal a shocking ignorance of many basic principles of digital communications.