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T-Mobile Flashes Flarion Trial

Wireless carrier T-Mobile International AG today confirmed it is carrying out trials of Flarion Technologies’ Flash OFDM equipment in European air space.

The news, first reported by Unstrung over two months ago, doesn’t come as a huge surprise and observers have long anticipated that a multimillion dollar investment in Flarion last year by the T-Mobile Venture Fund would lead to trials with the carrier (see Flarion in Tryst With T-Mobile? and Flarion Hushes on Slush Fund). But public confirmation does give some clues to Flarion’s and T-Mobile’s thinking.

The network, in The Hague, The Netherlands, was set up to give T-Mobile experience of how Flarion’s technology operates in the real world, says T-Mobile International spokesperson Phillip Schindera.

“We’ve got a decent network, with enough cells and base stations to get a good idea of how this works,” he adds.

In trials with Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL), Flarion’s OFDM equipment is said to give more bandwidth and lower latency than current 3G networks based on Wideband CDMA (see Nextel Steps Up Data Race).

Schindera warns, however, that the trial in the Netherlands is “absolutely no prediction” on whether T-Mobile will use Flarion commercially. One stumbling block is that European 3G spectrum is licensed for use only with Wideband CDMA equipment, which means operators can’t legally deploy OFDM on a wide scale.

On the upside, European regulators are increasingly prepared to relax 3G licensing terms. Spectrum trading, for example, is now being openly discussed and encouraged (see V'fone Hails Spectrum Trading and EC Studies Spectrum Trading).

Flarion’s EMEA marketing director, Joe Barret, is hopeful this new attitude will rub off on OFDM and expects, by the end of the year, that carriers will formally ask regulators to allow OFDM equipment in 3G spectrum.

“There’s a softening of the regulatory situation in the whole of Europe towards new technologies,” says Barret, with a smile.

— Gabriel Brown, Chief Analyst, Unstrung Insider

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