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3G/HSPA

Moto's Flarion Call?

Analysts are mulling over the prospect of closer ties between Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and startup Flarion Technologies after the pair announced they are working together on a public safety project in Washington, D.C. (see Flarion, Moto Unwire DC).

The project, which will use Flarion's Flash-OFDM technology, involves the deployment of 10 cell sites aimed at providing citywide coverage for the region’s emergency services and federal agencies. The first tower is expected to be up and running in April, with the system fully operational by August. The network will then be tested over the next twelve months.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of all this is not the deal itself but the fact that both vendors already have close -- but separate -- relationships with Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL). The U.S. carrier last week revealed details of a small trial network based on Flarion technology, while Motorola is the sole equipment supplier for its commercial iDEN service (see Nextel Flashes With Flarion and Nextel Launches Flash-OFDM) -- leading some to wonder if Moto and Flarion are working together on more than just public safety projects.

Both vendors are close-lipped on the specifics of the project and any future plans. Motorola was unable to return calls by press time, while Flarion’s resident Norseman, Ronny Haraldsvik, is walking the marketing tightrope. “This is the first time we have spoken of working with Motorola, but we are not disclosing any further detail,” he tells Unstrung. “We are not ready to disclose OEM relationships that we have at this time, but we will soon.”

Analysts believe Motorola’s presence is to be expected, in light of its experience in the public safety radio space (see Moto Chosen for Olympics, Moto TETRA Network Goes Live, and Moto TETRAs Hong Kong). “Motorola is one of the top public safety vendors in the market. Who would you choose to integrate and deploy the Flarion gear?” quips Current Analysis’s Peter Jarich. “I’d go with the people that have already climbed the towers once.”

Andy Fuertes of Visant Strategies Inc. argues that a full-pronged approach to the wireless broadband market could help turn around Motorola’s fortunes in the infrastructure arena. “It could give it an opportunity to catch a share of a new market. They have struggled to make much of an impression in UMTS, and even in GSM they have slowed. This could be a good way of re-establishing themselves.”

Other industry watchers are less bullish. “You can’t read too much into this deal,” states Jarich. “It’s way too early to tell if Flarion can propel Moto to new wireless success. Even if more momentum does develop, expect Moto’s competitors to establish OEM deals with Flarion and spread the wealth.”

“While it is tempting to interleave Motorola and Flarion and envision a new, formidable contender in the mobile operator market, that is not on the cards,” concurs Current Analysis’s Ken Rehbehn. “The Flarion kit is a great complement to Motorola's public safety systems, and it might even be a great complement to TETRA systems in Europe. But CDMA2000 and GSM/UMTS have credible plans for high-speed data support coupled with critical mass of implementers and operators. Motorola and Flarion will have a lot of resistance if they were to package this as an operator solution.”

Meanwhile Gartner Inc.’s Jason Chapman declares that the link-up is a “win-win” situation [ed. note: jeez, you think so?]. “Flarion needed a large-name solutions provider to add credibility, security, and professional services to the deal, which Motorola provided. Motorola want to be seen as being innovative and adapting to the needs of the market beyond the more established wide-area standards like CDMA and W-CDMA, which Flarion supported.”

By the way, for those of you that don't know much about the invisible art of RF engineering, OFDM is a modulation scheme that can support an average data rate of around 1.5 Mbit/s for users in a standard, PCS-sized cell site, while using only 1.25 MHz of spectrum. This makes it approximately four or five times more spectrally efficient than comparable 3G technologies, such as CDMA2000 or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), and cheaper to implement.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

frnkblk 12/5/2012 | 2:26:51 AM
re: Moto's Flarion Call? Justin writes that "OFDM is a modulation scheme that can support an average data rate of around 1.5 Mbit/s for users". That obscures the truth a little. OFDM is a modulation type, but depending how the OFDM is done (and there are lots of different variations of the concept), how many sub-channels are created, and how much bandwidth is assigned, different data rates will result. In general, OFDM is more spectrally efficient than cellular technology.

Frank
standardsarefun 12/5/2012 | 2:26:28 AM
re: Moto's Flarion Call? LR,
what does "public safety project" mean? Are you refering to the TIA/ETSI partnership project called "MESA" (see http://www.projectmesa.org/). Motorola already has 5 seperate memberships in the project but I don't see Flarion listed.
lrmobile_telconet 12/5/2012 | 2:22:50 AM
re: Moto's Flarion Call? OFDM is more spectrally efficient and a more data-friendly platform, but what we really need is a broadband wireless solution that can compete with cable and DSL - something like what NextNet is doing.
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