A Flower Grows in WiMax

Smart antenna technology is coming to WiMax in the form of chip startup Magnolia Broadband Inc.

Magnolia, which originally pushed its "DiversityPlus" technology for CDMA mobile phones, is now branching out. The firm's CEO Osmo Hautanen tells Unstrung that it is working with a WiMax provider to incorporate the technology in 802.16 chips in 2006.

The technology uses antenna diversity technology, taking advantage of two separate RF signals to improve client performance. Magnolia uses hardware and software in client chipsets to combine the power of both RF streams to produce more signal gain.

Magnolia says its technology can increase client coverage by up to 60 percent and double the uplink capacity. The company says that its technology will also provide an increase in battery life for client modems and devices, all without needing to alter existing wireless network equipment.

"WiMax, when it comes out, will have to compete with 3G," says Hautanen. "They have exactly the same kinds of issues when it comes to uplink." 3G systems typically use one channel to send and one to recieve, whereas WiMax is a multipath technology. But like all radio networks, WiMax will still subject to interference, range, and capacity problems.

The company didn't exactly say which chip provider it is working with. But Hautanen did drop a heavy hint. "Intel is an investor," he notes. "You draw your own conclusions."

Intel Corp. hadn't found anyone that could speak to us about this by press time.

The firm announced a CDMA partnership with Korean operator SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) in 2003. As well as the super-secret WiMax partner, Hautenen says that several CDMA OEM partners are working on products for the end of the year or early 2006.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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