Startup launches with promise of cheaper wireless VoIP

xMax will be in wireless VoIP handsets by the end of the year but when, where, how much and with whom remains to be seen

Wireless communications specialist xG Technology has announced that the first commercial products based on its low-power xMax wireless technology will be available later this year.

Following a limited set of unspecified enterprise-grade products in August, a consumer VoIP handset will be launched by the end of 2006, the Florida based company claimed on Tuesday.

"A single base station will handle 30,000 subscribers using 300 minutes per month, based on current cellular usage models," Chris Whiteley, xG's vice president of business development told ZDNet UK. "But we expect to drive a change in usage patterns. Even at 3600 minutes per month, the system will support 2500 users."

Establishing a base station should cost in the thousands rather than the millions of dollars, the company said, and it expects wireless ISPs, and competitive service providers to offer services. "A number of companies have expressed interest, but nobody's signed up yet," said Whiteley.

xMax is a proprietary broadband wireless technology claimed to have uniquely low-power operation over long distances. To date, public demonstrations have been limited to one-way point to point data transmissions, and the company says that voice or multi-user tests have yet to be conducted, even internally. Nevertheless, it is confident that product will be available by the end of the year.

"We've signed with an expert, known producer of VoIP handsets", said Whiteley, "They're bringing a lot of hardware and software expertise, and we're adding our xMax chip." The name of the partner will be announced before August, he said.

The handset will also support Wi-Fi and wired ethernet connections, to improve coverage within customer premises by using their existing networks. Although seamless handover between Wi-Fi and xMax may not happen in the first generation of handsets "it remains a goal".

Currently, the USA is the only region where xMax has regulatory approval. "We're designing for North America, but we have some strategic interest outside", said Whiteley. "If it's deployed internationally, it will have to be in licensed bands. A lot of developing countries would be easier for greenfield development."