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First public demo of 'disruptive' wireless broadband

A US company claims to have made a major breakthough with a technology that can broadcast at high speeds over long distances using hardly any power
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor on

Florida company XG Technology has given its first public demonstration of xMax, a broadband wireless technology it claims not only has a longer range than its rivals, but also is cheaper and easier to deploy.

In the Florida Everglades on Thursday, the company showed ZDNet UK a 3.7Mbps signal transmitted with a claimed power of just 50mW — roughly that of a standard laptop Wi-Fi adaptor – from a tower 18 miles away.

Click here to see pictures of the demonstration

"We will have product in the second half of 2006," said Rick Mooers, chief executive of XG. "We want to let anyone become a wireless ISP, in the same way that Cisco lets anyone become an ordinary ISP." xMax combines licensed and unlicensed spectrum in various ways, but the company says that because it can operate with thousands of times less power than existing services it can overlay their licensed frequencies without interference while still providing broadband service.

"It's unconventional. I know why it works, I know how it works and after a year I know it has the potential to be a disruptive technology" said Professor Stuart Schwartz of Princeton University, who has been working with the company. "Other systems spread one bit of information across thousands of cycles of radio transmission. xMax has one or two cycles per bit in a single cycle modulation event."

The key to the xMax technology is a still-to-be revealed receiver technology that inventor Joe Bobier describes as his '50 cent circuit'. This simultaneously detects the single cycle modulated signals while rejecting transmissions from other sources — so simple and efficient, says the company, that xMax could cover Fort Lauderdale's 1,200 square miles to 10 percent market penetration with 14 base stations for a total cost of $5.9m (£3.3m) .

The equivalent figures for WiMax and 3G are 249 stations and $44.4 million or 309 stations and $299.4 million respectively, according to figures from XG. These are predicated as much on xMax's ability to operate without a licence as on equipment and installation cost savings. The US regulator is currently the only one to say that unlicensed operation will be permissable.

[? /*CMS poll(20003928) */ ?]However, the company expects strong domestic opposition which may lead to initial deployment away from its home territory. "I'd say it's around 50:50 whether we have our first network in the US or in Europe," said Mooers. "We've been looking at Sweden, Turkey and other countries, where we might get less legal and lobbying pressure from existing operators than in the US."

He added that initial deployments may be by way of establishing the system's viability, with many more varied uses happening as other companies take its potential on board. "After the Cisco model, where we make high margins on complete systems, there may be Qualcomm or royalty models where we make much less per unit but sell billions."

Click here to read more about the technical aspects of xMax.

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