A month ago I put up a brief post on a company called xG Technology, which generated rather more entertainment and vitriolic comments than I'd anticipated. It's funny how I can regularly criticise UMA technology or metro-WiFi & still have cordial relationships with Kineto and assorted WiFi mesh vendors and hotspot providers (and their investors), but a relatively off-the-cuff post (which wasn't even that negative by my standards) could generate a call for me to be "strung up".
Since then, I've had few interesting emails and conversations about xMax. Last night I also had a blog comment added to an old post of mine, referring to a rather searing critique of xMax and one of its underlying patents, from a guy called Phil Karn who works for Qualcomm and who seems to enjoy taking shots at things that seem "too good to be true" - from timeshare sales pitches, through to "free energy" machines. See www.ka9q.net/xmax.html and www.ka9q.net/tristate.html . I'd actually been told about these articles a week ago or so by a 3rd party from the investment community, but didn't have time to write up a full post or moderate the inevitable stream of comment spam I'm going to get.
Now Mr Karn's writing style is pretty abrasive about both xG and it's main technology guy Joe Bobier. I'm not a huge fan of attacking people rather than organisations, but nevertheless, it's an interesting read. I don't know enough about either the finer details of RF modulation or information theory to critique his critique, but nothing jumps out at me as being obviously wrong - as far as I can see there's no major public debate about things like Shannon-Hartley theorem, for example. On the other hand, he does work for Qualcomm and his ka9q site is also accessible directly via http://people.qualcomm.com/karn so there will understandably be people who'll shout "but he would say that, wouldn't he? Qualcomm's scared" so caveat lector.
Anyway, it's an interesting diversion while the world waits with baited breath to hear what Telefonica Mexico makes of xG's products in its ongoing trial. Some observers think this might happen soon, but I can't imagine any service provider making snap judgements, in just a couple of months, about a strategic technology shift without exhaustive & lengthy large-scale trials. On the other hand as it's billed as a "joint venture" rather than a conventional supplier relationship, it could be that Telefonica is just providing cell sites, masts or backhaul infrastructure as its part of the deal, perhaps letting xG bear more of the financial risks about the radio side and sales/marketing of devices and retail services. Given the early stage of the technology, I could envisage some sort of vendor-financing arrangement being more palatable to CFOs.
I've also spoken to the CTO of another operator who's skeptical but keeping an open mind and watching brief on xMax "If it's true, then I can't afford to ignore it", although he's wary of the way the technology is being marketed and is also working on WiMAX in any case. No additional news from pioneering xMax customer, Florida ISP Far Reach on their ongoing deployment, either.
My view remains that there's possibly "something" interesting in xMax, but not magically wonderful. There remain doubts as to its real-world efficacy, as Karn's comments illustrate - it's certainly not as cut-and-dried "proven to work" as its advocates suggest. However, I still maintain that trying to do a wVoIP service as the first application is a serious mistake, as the difficult things about wVoIP are not the wireless bits, but the VoIP bits (codecs, servers, interconnect, quality, testing....), as well as all the other messy parts of the end-to-end solution. A more general data access service (eg cards for laptops, or fixed wireless modems) would make much more sense.
Now, some housekeeping notes:
I'm expecting some hatemail on this, just for giving Karn's views an airing. I guess my old friend Mr Anonymous, who so graciously dispensed his wisdom on my last post, may return. I suspect he is one of the regular bullish posters on this board, who have also been shooting at Karn's analysis and who specialise in burning heretics, rather than engaging in debate. I think my erstwhile interlocutor is quite possibly the one with the handle "marcsanpedro", as the syntax & language & style of multiple consecutive posts is similar, plus he refers to me in one instance. If so, I can quite understand why he doesn't like Google as a research tool. And if he's who I think he is, he also randomly phoned me last year asking my opinion about xG.
Anyway, I've got a busy week ahead, so I'm going to be ruthless with deleting comments from the more rabid xG fans that are offensive rather than factual, as I don't have time to debate endlessly. It also looks like Blogger now has a "lock comment thread" facility for individual posts, although I hope I won't have to use it.