Nextel Studies Standards

Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) will decide early next year whether it will opt for Flash-OFDM or CDMA 1x EV-DO (Evolution, Data Only) as the technology of choice for its national wireless broadband network.

The carrier has already deployed a trial of Flarion Technologies’ proprietary Flash-OFDM technology in North Carolina but has not ruled out the possibility of opting for industry standard EV-DO kit (see Nextel Steps Up Data Race and Nextel Flashes With Flarion).

“We continue to be pleased with the results we are getting with the Raleigh/Durham trial,” said CTO Barry J. West in Nextel’s third quarter results conference last week (see Nextel Ups Q3 Profits). “CDMA 1x EV-DO Revision A is also of significant interest to us. The thing we are looking for is the ability to extend the Internet and to be able to support voice over IP and both of these technologies appear to be good choices.”

West reveals that Nextel has issued an RFP for the nationwide deployment of both technologies, “due back in November.”

“It will take us a couple of months to digest and then make some decisions on which path to go,” adds CEO Tim M. Donahue. “We expect that in the first quarter of next year we will have all the information, we will be making a decision and then we will let you know when the build will start.”

Donahue claims that “late 06, early 07, is probably a reasonable timeframe” for commercial launch of the network.

OFDM, which stands for Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, is a modulation scheme that has provided Nextel with an average downlink speed of approximately 900 kbit/s.

In contrast, EV-DO is an upgrade to CDMA 1x RTT networks, intended to crank up data rates to a theoretical 2 Mbit/s, although 300 to 500 kbit/s is a more realistic limit. Nextel’s rivals have already committed to the technology (see Sprint Confirms EV-DO Network and Verizon Repeats on 3G).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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