Motorola's Maximum WiMax

CHICAGO -- Globalcomm 2006 -- Continuing its drive to be a premier player in the emerging mobile broadband market, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is touting a comprehensive "ecosystem" of WiMax devices, networks, and providers that will one day closely resemble the cellular system of today.

Previewing his keynote address at the "WiMax Strategies 2006" conference here at Globalcomm, Motorola's CTO for networks and enterprise Dan Coombes outlined Motorola's vision of a wireless broadband future based on the 802.16e standard for WiMax.

"We think it's very, very important for the growth of WiMax to have a total ecosystem," explains Coombes. "That means a comprehensive solution from devices, to access points to the core network, to applications. Secondly, it means multiple companies developing the technology. If it's really going to take off you need competing companies, because one company can't do it all."

One of the earliest of the major telecom companies to place all of its WiMax bets on the 802.16e version of the technology, instead of the 802.16d standard for fixed WiMax, Motorola last year announced its "MotoWi4" umbrella brand for an array of broadband wireless technologies that includes mesh WiFi networks, WiMax, and the Canopy wireless technology for unlicensed spectrum. It also launched a partnership with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) in which Motorola will develop WiMax handsets and infrastructure for the broadband wireless network that Sprint plans to build over the next couple of years.

That partnership is still in the lab-testing phase, but Coombes expects to see field trials later this year.

Earlier this year, at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas, Motorola released its first WiMax product, an ultralight access point. At WiMax World Europe in Vienna last month the company brought out its second, "carrier-class" AP.

While the core technology for WiMax networks is in place, Coombes says, a cellphone-like handset and a viable business model for operators are the two key components to drive widespread deployment of the high-speed systems.

"You have to build a business case around a reasonable bill per user, so that the operators can make money," Coombes explains. "Today, that's not possible."

The advent of a compact, affordable WiMax handset will hasten the enterprise uptake of wireless broadband, Coombes adds. That will enable the spread of true seamless mobility for voice services, once the WiMax networks are integrated with companies' IP-based PBX systems for office telephone services. And it will magnify the role of WiMax in accelerating the shift towards the all-IP, converged, multimedia networks of the future.

The WiMax Strategies conference winds up the four-day Globalcomm show, which this year drew just over 17,200 people to Chicago's McCormick Place convention center.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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