Nextel To Trial 802.20 Wireless Broadband

Nextel this week quietly started paving the way for delivering fast wireless access to mobile users.

February 6, 2004

2 Min Read
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Nextel this week quietly started paving the way for delivering fast wireless access to mobile users.

The wireless operator started soliciting both businesses and consumers in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area to participate in trials for its Nextel Wireless Broadband. The trials will start in February and will last as long as six months, the company said at its Web site.

According to the site, the service is based on Flarion Technologies' FLASH-OFDM, which uses IEEE 802.20 technology to deliver speeds that the company claims is as fast as cable access. Nextel said that typical downstream speeds for the service are 1.5 Mbps and typical upstream speeds are 375 Kbps.

By contrast, Verizon's Wireless' EV-DO service, currently available in San Diego and Washington, D.C., has typical downstream speeds in the 500 Kbps range. Verizon said it would start rolling out that service nationwide this summer.

Nextel's choice of 802.20 technology is at odds with widely-discussed technology based on the 802.16 standard, which is being championed by vendors such as Intel. That company has pledged 802.16 products, also known as WiMAX, will be available later this year.That doesn't mean, however, that 802.20 technology is outgunned. The initial version of WiMAX won't support mobile users while Nextel says that's precisely the target for its trials in North Carolina. In addition, the venture arm of T-Mobile has invested in Flarion, according to that company's Web site, and trials of the technology are about to be launched by Korea Telecom. The technology has also, in the past, received support from Cisco, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.

802.20 operates in licensed bands below 3.5 GHz, compared to licensed use of licensed bands between 2 and 6 GHz used by 802.16. Both technologies claim low latency, which enables access to corporate networks via virtual private networks as well as use of real-time applications such as voice-over-IP.

Nextel's service requires use of either a PC card or a standalone modem, which the company will provide to those who participate in the trials. Beyond information on its Web site, Nextel provided no information about when the service would be widely available or what it will cost, although it said that after the North Carolina trial is completed, users there can sign up to continue using the service.

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