ArrayComm: Base Station Ahoy!
Kyocera is supplying the equipment for the iBurst system being deployed by Vodafone Australia and others (see ArrayComm: Oz First, US Next?). Some of the early sites have been installed in Sydney. The partners are looking to a "soft" rollout in November and intend to install more base stations next year.
ArrayComm's technology is different from standard 3G systems because it uses "unpaired" spectrum. Unpaired, or time-division duplex (TDD), technology allows one communications channel to be used for both upstream and downstream traffic, and it is well-suited for data packet delivery and Internet connectivity. Frequency-division duplex (FDD) transmission, the flavor used by the major 3G systems, uses two separate channels for sending traffic back and forth. This makes it somewhat of a spectrum glutton compared with TDD.
Unstrung met with Nitin J. Shah, executive vice president and general manager of business development and strategy at ArrayComm, at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) trade show in Las Vegas. Our brief chat with him gave some indication on how the offerings of the different players in this loosely defined sector might start to diverge when -- or rather if -- they ever reach mass market.
For instance, Shah says Kyocera will have standalone iBurst modems and PCMCIA cards ready in a few months. The firm has been talking to consumer, and other, device manufacturers about incorporating its "personal broadband" technology into their products. Sony Corp. happens to be a "key investor" in ArrayComm, so incorporation into digital cameras, music players and other devices at some point in the future may not be too farfetched.
Whatever eventually arrives bearing the little iBurst logo is also likely to be able to run over 802.11 wireless LAN networks as well. Shah sees this as a key requirement for many of ArrayComm's partners.
"LG Electronics is very insistent on doing interoperability between iBurst and 802.11," says Shah. ArrayComm has already demonstrated that its technology can hand off to the wireless LAN technology and vice versa. Shah envisages manufacturers making dualmode 802.11/iBurst cards.
However, the company sees little need to develop handoff techniques between iBurst and current and future cellular network systems, even though it would be theoretically possible.
"We're not sure there's a market for it," Shah says. "Our partners are not convinced at all that there's a need for it."
Contrast this with the approach that IPWireless Inc. is taking. It just announced a network software upgrade that adds SIM-card-based security and potential WAN/WLAN interoperability capabilities (see IPWireless Does Mobile 3-Step). This is a clear nod to possible future requirements of carriers -- particularly those in Europe.
It's not impossible that if these vendors actually manage to survive in the first place, then separate technologies could develop around different international requirements and applications. Of course, survival is the still the big question at the moment.
On a side note: Unstrung had heard a few rumors that ArrayComm itself had paid for the Australian deployment of iBurst. So we asked Shah, and he flat-out denied it.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung