Optical/IP Networks

Radioframe's Euro Duality

Radioframe Networks Inc. is planning to deliver GSM-based equipment that simultaneously enables wireless LAN connectivity and beefs up cellular coverage inside buildings to its first major European carrier customer in the first quarter of next year.

The Bellevue, Wash.-based startup is already delivering similar equipment based around the iDEN standard to a carrier from Reston, VA who we're not really supposed to reveal, but the name begins with an N and ends with an l. N----l is using the kit to provide better cellphone reception and will -- at some as-yet-unspecified point -- deliver WLAN capabilities to its business clients.

"Many of the companies we're speaking to -- including Nextel [Ed. note: Shhhh!] -- are really focusing on the enterprise space," says Mark Anderson, VP of business development at Radioframe.

"We are continuing to explore and research WLAN for the enterprise," says a Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) spokesperson. "Over the coming months, we will work closely with our customers to ensure that we are working toward the best WLAN solution available in the marketplace."

Anderson won't name Radioframe's European carrier customer yet, either. However, Orange Ventures is a major investor in Radioframe, just as is N----l. So just maybe Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE) will be getting in on the dual-mode action next year.

Anderson says Radioframe also has a GSM customer in the U.S. lined up. Naturally, he ain't saying nuttin' about that either.

Nextel has definitely been working with Radioframe on improving in-building coverage for two and half years -- they told us so themselves.

Basically, this in-building system is the existing chassis into which Radioframe plugs a WLAN radio. The system is part base station, part 802.11b access point [Ed. note: sounds like a bad film pitch], with little signal amplifiers and WLAN radios dotted round a building. These enable it to provide separate WLAN and WAN coverage inside a building.

In the "proof of concept" phase that the Radioframe dualmode system is currently in, users are accessing the system via separate handsets and WLAN-enabled laptops. However, dualmode PC cards are starting to trickle onto the market, so laptop users will be able to access either network that way.

More interesting is the prospect of dualmode WAN/LAN handsets. There are, as Anderson says, unconfirmed rumors that major handset manufacturers such as Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications will deliver such phones within the next 12 months.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com

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