As the race for higher-capacity networks heats up, high-speed, data-optimised technologies are emerging as alternatives for wireless data access. In addition, companies such as Cisco Systems are working to strengthen the role of IP in third-generation (3G) networks in an effort to ensure data performance and speed.
Lucent Technologies last week formally announced the spin-off Flarion Technologies, which is developing a wireless data-access technology from Bell Labs. Flash Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) is a signal-processing scheme that has been optimized for mobile wireless environments. The technology is designed for transferring data at high speeds and low latencies over a distributed IP network, company officials said. Different versions of OFDM modulation are also used in fixed wireless technologies and broadcast television.
Because the fundamental structure of the Internet is built for data, architecture designed in the same spirit is needed for wireless data, Flarion officials said.
"We are building a wireless access architecture designed for data that is totally consistent with the Internet. High-speed, reliable data over the air is where we are going," said Ray Dolan, CEO of Flarion, in Bedminster, N.J. "We think 3G is designed to enhance [the network's] capacity to carry voice. But for data from an efficiency standpoint, there isn't a lot gained over current technologies."
Flarion officials are positioning the technology as a data-centric alternative that can coexist with 3G.
"Our technology is an alternative to 3G, knowing that 3G's focus was voice," Dolan said. "It has improved quality and lifted peak data rates to address emergence of [the] wireless data market."
Another wireless data system, ArrayComm's iBurst, is a low-mobility wireless data technology that enables high-speed data access as fast as 1Mb per user, officials said. Last month the company received a spectrum license from the US Federal Communications Commission for iBurst trials. ArrayComm believes there will be a market for portable wireless data that will tap a different market than 3G.
Other companies interested in furthering data performance in 3G include Cisco Systems, Motorola, and Xybridge Technologies, all of which last week participated in NTT DoCoMo's IP-based mobile communications trial.
Cisco is working to validate IP's presence in 3G and is involved in the Mobile Wireless Internet Forum, which promotes the alignment of wireless infrastructures and the Internet.
"There is a concern about data's role in [3G]," said Ed Paradise, vice president and general manager of Cisco's technology and mobile business unit, in San Jose, Calif. "[We] are trying to [work with] the industry to push faster on the IP-centric approach."
One analyst said future data rates will grow, but will depend on how fast carriers upgrade their networks.
"In the beginning, the [path to 3G] will be for more capacity on voice, but [some standards] will offer pretty large jumps in data rates," said Callie Nelsen, senior analyst at IDC, in Austin, Texas.