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Monday, July 09, 2007

2G - WiMAX dualmode

Had an interesting chat with a company called Comsys this afternoon. It makes baseband chips for mobile phones. It's working hard on the notion of a different style of dual-mode that I hadn't really given much thought to up until now - combining wide-coverage GPRS/EDGE with more localised WiMAX for high capacity in urban areas.

I can sort of see the argument - especially for 2G operators & MVNOs that don't have existing UMTS spectrum or built-out networks, and think that 802.16e might be cheaper or easier to deploy. Conversely, it may be that such devices would enable WiMAX startup operators to start off with lower capex if they concentrated on build-out in dense areas, and cut an MVNO deal for occasional rural use.

One problem might be indoor coverage, however - I can't see 2.5GHz or 3.5GHz WiMAX having great penetration in-building, which may mean WiFi is needed as well. Another thorny question is around authentication - although Comsys is positioning WiMAX as "a cellular-type technology" I haven't seen much enthusiasm for using SIMs with it thus far, although I guess that a UMA or VCC approach might work.

Nevertheless, an interesting option & worth keeping an eye on.


Martin said...

Hello Dean,

yup, definitely intersting. And some companies have already announced phones around such a chipset:



Anonymous said...

Flippin' heck! 2G-and-WiMax? could you *get* more niche?

Pick a WAN technology, any technology, cobble on something PAN or LAN, proprietary interop mechanisim, and then go to a high-street handset vendor (that would be one with a marketing budget and a smidge of brand recognition) and ask them to build a few. Sorry sir? How many? We don't get out of bed for less than 10M units sir, but you can pick your colour, sir.

Hang on...checks date...nope, April 1 passed a whiles back.

A niche of a subset of a segment. Will probably get LOADS of VC ca£h then...



Anonymous said...

There's some thinking recently that WiMAX cells in metros will need to be pretty small-sized, on the order of or even smaller than UMTS cells. Which makes for interesting discussion for the backhaul opex costs to these metros WiMAX cells.

If the data-access will mainly be from indoors, some clear-headed thinking about cost-effective in-building WiFi technologies and the relevant business models (neutral host operator, etc) would go a long way towards achieving the "mobile Internet".

Adding decent acceleration to the macro EDGE network or a Opera Mini browser to the handset is the remaining action item!

Dean Bubley said...

Thanks for the comments.

Mike - I'm not so sure it's so much of an irrelevance. I can think of a few possibilities that could generate larger volumes. BT for example, which is an MVNO, could acquire 2.5GHz spectrum for WiMAX and use its 2G MVNO network for extra coverage. There's also an interesting argument for an EDGE/WiMAX combo for devices to allow different roaming combinations (eg a WiMAX device for Sprint that also roamed onto 2.5G/2.75G internationally).

Anonymous #2 - various people are talking about WiMAX femtos for indoor coverage, which is a possibility. I'd also expect metro fibre operators to be some of the first in the queue for WiMAX spectrum, which should impact the economics. Neutral-host indoor WiFi already exists (eg The Cloud) but is focused on "public locations" where a service/hotspot model is prevalent. It isn't a useful approach in corporate offices ,where the WLAN is usually tightly integrated with the LAN, and is more used as owned IT infrastructure rather than offered as a service model

Fred Bastien said...

Hi Dean,
you mention that authentication might be an issue since most WiMAX devices are SIM-less.

I agree that SIM-equipped WiMAX handsets are not common and probably won't be for a while. But there are products out there that can manage registration and authentication of any type of devices, including GSM/UMTS phones, SIP-clients and SIM-less WiFi/WiMAX devices.

Two weeks ago, in an industry trade-show in Italy, Blueslice has demonstrated the ability to register and authenticate real users with both 2G phones and WiMAX (SIM-less) devices, on a live Blueslice HLR. Whether these are multiple separate devices or multi-mode devices is irrelevant to us.

Fred Bastien
Blueslice Networks