Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dean Bubley: VoWLAN? Vo3G? Yesterday's news. Try new VoxMAX! Now with added range!! Er, maybe.

Dean Bubley writes at his Disruptive Wireless blog about "xG Technology, which claims to have a proprietary approach to RF modulation, which enables it to create wireless broadband networks with hugely better range/power/bandwidth characteristics than all the other more mainstream alternatives (cellular, WiFi, WiMAX, TDD, Flash-OFDM etc)." Bubley writes that "It sounds too good to be true, but I still have a sense that there's something very clever there somewhere." The company is focusing on "creating dual-mode WiFi/xMAX VoIP phones and base stations, intended for "grassroots" (ie disruptive) VoIP service providers." After speaking with the company, Bubley writes:

Apparently, the initial devices will be pitched at the US market, using the 900MHz "ISM" unlicenced band. The xMax chips will use FPGAs, available to the company from August. The firm is working with an ODM to design the hardware and software, and the inclusion of WiFi is to enable the transmitter to avoid having to work through walls, using customers' own local connectivity where available. There are no immediate plans to add cellular radios, so to start with, these devices will be aimed at metropolitan/regional operators... or indeed private companies and individual users.
Bubley thinks the "company risks falling into a trap. It appears to have some cool technology - but is not necessarily going about commercialising it in the best way." He says:
Unfortunately, in some ways creating the RF and silicon bit of a phone is "the easy bit" - even if its based on ultra-clever radio technology. The tricky stuff is in making the rest of the phone exploit that radio - having a decent voice performance, a good & intuitive user interface, bulletproof security, and having useable & effective applications like contact book and call register & SMS. The other tricky elements are around creating a service - not just rolling out cheap base stations, but the server platform, marketing, billing and customer support. There's no point having a cheap network if every customer has to make 13 phone calls to an agent asking how to configure the phone to use it properly.
Bubley believes "trying to get the "phone" bit of the technology working in less than 6 months is, er, challenging," and is taking a wait-and-see approach. He does conclude that:
For wireless VoIP, the devil is in the detail. And details like spelling your own company's URL correctly in the original draft of the press release are the starting point. It's also notable that the company's website lacks a "careers" section for all of you enthusiastic handset UI engineers to browse.
Hmmm. Companies with limited info on their website scare me....