Nextel Goes Indoors

Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) has today finally confirmed that it will use RadioFrame Networks Inc.'s dualmode wide- and local-area wireless networking system to offer its corporate customers base 802.11 access in their offices.

Of course it's old news to us. Unstrung exclusively revealed that Nextel was planning this wireless LAN move in October last year! (See Radioframe's Euro Duality.) RadioFrame has been working with Nextel for three years providing a box that improves the indoor coverage of Nextel's iDEN cell phone network. Adding wireless LAN access to this system requires Nextel to plug 802.11b (11-Mbit/s over 2.4GHz) radios and signal amplifiers into the existing cellular chassis.

The move could also start to lay the foundations for the carrier to introduce voice-over-WLAN handsets. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), the company that developed iDEN and the sole supplier of Nextel's handsets, has already said it is working on cell phone designs that can handle both cellular and voice-over-IP calls on a wireless LAN network (see Motorola Plots WLAN VOIP Move).

However, most analysts and industry watchers say there are a number of technical problems with voice-over-wireless LAN that need to be addressed before such systems become widely used in the enterprise (see Is 802.11 Ready for VOIP? for more on this).

A spokesperson for RadioFrame says that the company is still developing the similar GSM/WLAN indoor coverage system it first demonstrated in February (see RadioFrame Demos GSM/WLAN).

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

dan'l 12/5/2012 | 3:42:43 AM
re: Nextel Goes Indoors How are those trials going genius?
whatupwireless 12/5/2012 | 3:41:18 AM
re: Nextel Goes Indoors Wow, did you actually pull up a 3 year old post to try to prove something or do you just have way too much time on your hands?
rajeevfromca 12/4/2012 | 11:32:55 PM
re: Nextel Goes Indoors This solution extends cellular coverage indoors using indoor base stations on licensed spectrum. Turns out the same chassis can be used to support WLAN cards.

What is much more interesting is to use WLAN (unlicensed spectrum) to extend cellular services to indoor environments. That opens up a whole new opportunity for mobile carriers to provide better coverage at lower cost to their subscribers. This can displace landline minutes towards mobile operators.

Note it is not sufficient to do VoWLAN within an enterprise (as Spectralink, Cisco do). It is necessary to link the indoor network to the mobile operator so *all* mobile services are available indoors (e.g. voice, SMS, data) so that to the end user, it is completely transparent whether they are indoor or outdoor.
joset01 12/4/2012 | 11:32:54 PM
re: Nextel Goes Indoors Motorola and friends are working on something along these lines aren't they. Any insight on when this kind of technology could be in place?

rajeevfromca 12/4/2012 | 11:32:49 PM
re: Nextel Goes Indoors Some folks have talked about SIP over wi-fi as being the panacea, but that does not provide seamless mobility to cellular networks e.g. no voice call handovers. So such solutions have appeal as extensions of IP-PBX systems within an enterprise.

SIP can certainly enable a new generation of services, especially those based on presence. But carriers will be loath to throw away the existing set of services they have developed for cellular users e.g. voice, SMS, supplementary services. To recreate the whole service infrastructure over SIP is an expensive proposition, and begs the question as to what value that may provide.

Instead, a better solution would be to reuse the existing service infrastructure seamlessly (over WLAN or cellular), and to enable new services using SIP (over WLAN or GPRS/CDMA 1x), thereby getting the best of both.

In the near term anyway, users are more interested in getting good coverage at low cost indoor so they can use their cell phone as the only phone. Selling them a phone that works differently indoor and outdoor, providing different set of services is not going to cut it.

In terms of timing, we should expect to see carrier trials beginning towards the end of this year and commercial services beginning mid next year.
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