IPWireless Flies the TDD Flag

Chris Gilbert, the ebullient Brit CEO of IPWireless Inc., has one shocking fact he'd like you all to know.

"There are now more commercial UMTS systems deployed in the U.S. than there are in Europe," Gilbert says. "Isn't that outrageous?" This is because Gilbert's startup has set up systems in Montana (see Teewinot First in US With UMTS) and Hawaii, and is now working with Internet access and data service provider Clearwire to have a system running before the end of the year in a major city in the South, which neither company is prepared to name.

Now, these UMTS systems aren't exactly what Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) or Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) are thinking of when they talk about UMTS (although Gilbert claims to be talking to all the big boys). Instead, IPWireless is running a UMTS network over 2.4GHz MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service) spectrum.

Conventional UMTS systems use frequency-division duplex (FDD) or "paired" spectrum, whereas 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.

Clearwire and other providers intend to use the system to provide high-speed mobile Internet access. Clearwire's service operates via a pocket-sized wireless modem that can be plugged into PCs or laptops, offering data transfer speeds up to twenty times faster than dialup. However, Gilbert says the system could also be used for voice over IP.

Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS) has also conducted trials with the IPWireless system. Gilbert says an unnamed European operator is also conducting a commercial trial with the equipment.

IPWireless also has a deal with WorldCom Inc. (OTC: WCOEQ) -- "for what that's worth," Gilbert laughs, ruefully.

The company's current rivals include Unstrung 25ers ArrayComm Inc. and Flarion Technologies. Essentially, though, all of these companies are competing against the 3G systems coming from vendors in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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