IPWireless Does Mobile 3-Step

LAS VEGAS -- IPWireless Inc. has released the latest revision of its network software, adding security and roaming features that it hopes will appeal to equipment vendors and operators, particularly in the European market.

The new software adds SIM-card security and support for mobile IP. These upgrades could help equipment manufacturers implement cards that could authenticate users via a home location register (HLR) database, allowing them to roam between IPWireless' UMTS-based technology, GPRS, and 802.11. This is similar to some of the technology concepts introduced by vendors such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK).

The firm says that it hopes to announce partnership deals with two "top-tier" OEM vendors before the end of the year. "I'm sorry I can't tell you more," says Jon Hambidge, senior director of marketing at IPWireless.

However, the features added in the latest version of the network software are very much on the European wireless community's wavelength. Therefore, Unstrung wouldn't be surprised if Nokia, Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc., Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY), or Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) are among the potential partnership deals.

Clearly, a partnership with a major vendor would be a boost for the startup, as it would encourage carriers to take the technology more seriously. Smaller operators in the U.S. have already started to deploy IPWireless' technology (see IPWireless Flies the TDD Flag), but it has been all quiet on the European front so far.

"With the 3G conference in Monte Carlo next year you'll see a couple of the French operators that have deployed the system talking about it," says Hambridge. He also expects two operators in the U.K. to announce deployments.

In this kind of environment, the deployment may well function as a high-powered overlay to an existing GSM/GPRS network, providing better in-building coverage and higher data rates -- rather than the cable/DSL replacement technology it is often perceived as in the U.S.

Here in Vegas, the company took your Unstrung correspondent out for a spin to demonstrate the high-speed mobile applications of its technology. In a van decked out with two flat-panel monitors, a laptop, and an IP wireless modem, they demonstrated wireless audio and video streaming at around 2 Mbit/s and 40 mph at a distance of around 4 miles from their basestation.

IPWireless -- which owns spectrum in Vegas and New York -- has set up a demo cell site in Las Vegas that consists of two sectors run off one base station. We started to lose connectivity right on the edge of Vegas, as it becomes desert.

Current IPWireless deployments run a UMTS network over 2.4GHz MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service) spectrum. However, they are not wedded to that particular band. Whereas conventional UMTS systems use frequency-division duplex (FDD) or "paired" spectrum, the IPWireless system operates over time-division duplex (TDD) or "unpaired" spectrum. Data-only TDD systems are more spectrally efficient than FDD systems, because they use one channel for both upstream and downstream traffic rather than two.

During the demo, the video stream "hung" once or twice, but the audio stream was strong and clear, and Web browsing was a breeze. Certainly this type of technology could have a future for in-car computing systems.

However, the demo also underscored a new potential worry for legislators examining cellphone use in cars: The flashing lights, noise, and data streams were pretty distracting to the process of driving. Perhaps it was no surprise that during the demo, the van got into a minor crash coming out of a car park. Alas, the vehicle was traveling slowly, so no fireball ensued -- but it certainly illustrated the dangers of drivin' and browsin'.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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