Info-Tech Research

Motorola Inc. will be offering a new WiMAX gateway offering both voice and data services at next week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The Schaumberg, Ill.-based wireless technology maker is unveiling the WiMAX CPEi 750 customer premise equipment, which features one data and two Voice over IP (VoIP) ports, to provide a fixed wireless broadband connection. The device meets the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.16e standard and can receive data on a 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz band.

Hossein Parandeh, director of marketing for WiMAX devices at Motorola, said that while WiMAX will be hugely popular among customers located outside of cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) service areas, the demand will be widespread among all businesses.

“A technology like WiMAX enables a population that has no broadband access to suddenly experience broadband,” Parandeh said. “But also, where there is an existing wire line infrastructure, there is still potential for this unit. Operators may want to add extension and mobility to their network.”

WiMAX, which stands for Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access, is designed to allow transfer rates of up to 40 Mbps per channel over a wide-area wireless network, with cell radii of three to 10 km.

For businesses unhappy with the performance of their cable or DSL service, some analysts say, WiMAX capabilities could eventually become a viable alternative.

“Let’s say you have DSL service, but are located far away from the central DSL office and are experiencing a slow connection,” Monica Paolini, president of Sammamish, Wash.-based Senza Fili Consulting LLC, said. “So, if a WiMAX bay station is closer, that might be the option you go with.”

Demand for the WiMAX devices, according to Info-Tech Research Group’s Mark Tauschek, will be based on how quickly WiMAX networks get rolled out around the world. One potential holdup could be quality concerns around the use of VoIP over WiMAX.

“These VoIP calls are going to go over the Internet and anytime an IP call goes over the Internet, you can no longer control the quality of the call,” the London, Ont.-based senior research analyst said. “So in that sense, it would be the same thing as Vonage or any other consumer VoIP provider, because once it hits the Internet it’s out of your control.”

But Paranadeh said a test of the technology at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show was met with rave reviews.

Once it hits the Internet it’s out of your control.Mark Tauschek, analyst,>Text“We had coverage outside the event and it was very good,” Paranadeh said. “People were making VoIP calls while driving to WiMAX and the quality was digital, so it’s better than what you get on a cellular network.”

Paranadeh admitted that North America is still lagging behind on WiMAX, but pointed to the success of networks in Pakistan, France and Germany. Analysts say that like any infant technology it will take some time to get off the ground.

“It you look at the true WiMAX networks out there, they’re all at the beginning stages, so we see a lot of fine tuning from the operator point-of-view,” Paolini said. “In some cases they might realize that they need to have a few more bay stations or position them in different ways. We were expecting to see more activity in this market at this point, but it’s still early.”

For now, Paolini said, the biggest potential for WiMAX customers will come from emerging markets in less developed countries, where the demand for basic broadband connectivity is huge. The biggest obstacle for countries which already have strong broadband coverage, she said, might be the steep price point.

“It’s difficult to talk about prices without talking about volume, but I’ve heard that the CP’s (customer premise equipment) are at the $200 mark and that’s a price that is still too high to be competitive with DSL and cable,” Paolini said.

Motorola said it expects a global launch for the WiMAX product by the middle of 2008. The company would not reveal any specific prices yet, however, may do so at next week’s Mobile World Congress.

With the launch of the CPEi 750, Motorola will also unveil the PCCw 200 PC card, which can give laptop users mobile connectivity with global roaming capabilities.

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