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Flarion Goes Faster

Mobile broadband startup Flarion has significantly improved the performance of its gear in a bid to become the equipment provider of choice for operators that want to offer triple-play wireless voice, video, and data services.

The Bedminster, N.J.-based firm has developed a "Flexband" upgrade for its existing 1.25MHz and Flash-OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) equipment that it says can support hundreds of users consuming 1 Gbyte of data a month.

Here are the specs:

A single 1.25MHz Flexband carrier sector will be able to deliver peak data rates of 5.3 Mbit/s downstream, 1.8 Mbit/s upstream, and 2.5 Mbit/s of throughput, Flarion claims. Ronny Haraldsvik, VP of global communications and marketing at the firm, says that the 5GHz equipment will deliver about 6-Mbit/s throughput. Flarion base stations typically offer three carrier signals per sector and three sectors per box.

The upgrade also means that users on the edge of coverage will get better throughput, typically between 600 and 800 kbit/s, compared to 200 kbit/s for the firm's earlier equipment.

Flarion has increased the performance of its system by tweaking the way data is sent and received over its Flash-OFDM technology. Typical OFDM base stations split one wideband radio signal into multiple sub-signals to transmit data. The technology gives radio signals resilience to outside RF interference and improves overall data transmission rates.

So -- deep breath -- what Flarion has now done to further improve its system performance is develop a "BeaconTone" system that monitors interference between these radio sub-signals and choses the best path for data transmission in real time.

"There's a lot of secret sauce there," says Haraldsvik. [Ed note: And quite a bit of invisible spaghetti, too.]

Thus, the firm is using the same basic radio technology as its previous products, but says it can squeeze out two or three times better performance than before. Haraldsvik says that carriers using its second-generation products will need to upgrade their software to use the Flexband system. Carriers that bought systems before the second half of 2004 may need some "minor hardware upgrades."

Flarion plans to try and sell this new kit to operators outside of the wireless sphere. "Cable operators and satellite operators are very interested in this because they want to able to compete with the wireless players and they want to offer triple-play services," claims Haraldsvik.

Flarion's proprietary technology will compete -- particularly in the U.S. -- with CDMA EV-DO (evolution, data only) services being installed by major carriers like Verizon Wireless. EV-DO offers average download speeds of between 300 and 500 kbit/s.

"We've raised the bar on 3G," claims a confident Haraldsvik.

Also coming up in the rear view mirror is WiMax, a fixed -- and eventually mobile -- wireless MAN specification based on the 802.16 specification. Early WiMax products should be available in late 2005, or, as now seems more likely, early 2006.

Haraldsvik says that this gives Flarion a significant time and technology advantage on companies that will be looking to offer carriers what is essentially fixed-wireless equipment to test in 2006.

"WiMax's future was Flarion's reality in 2000," says an ever more confident Haraldsvik.

Of course, Flarion is no stranger to carrier trials, it has plenty of its own in progress (see T-Mobile Flashes Flarion Trial, Nextel-Sprint: Winners & Losers, and Flarion Greets Aloha). It will be interesting to see if the equipment's new capabilities lead to more actual deployments over the next couple of years.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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