Siemens adds Flash-OFDM to broadband wireless family

German engineering and manufacturing company Siemens will add more broadband technology to its growing portfolio of new...

German engineering and manufacturing company Siemens will add more broadband technology to its growing portfolio of new high-speed wireless systems slated for delivery early next year.

Siemens will integrate Flash (fast low-latency access with seamless hand-off) OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) into its new broadband wireless access systems. Flash OFDM was developed by Flarion Technologies.

Flash-OFDM is a proprietary cellular broadband technology that network operators can deploy either to link notebook computers of mobile users or serve as a fixed wireless access system, bridging the "last mile" to connect computers in homes and small offices. Key features include an all-IP architecture and fast speeds.

The technology enables users traveling at 250km per hour, for instance, to download data at speeds up to 1.5mbps or upload at speeds up to 500kbps.

By comparison, although 3G (third generation) technology is capable of a theoretical speed up to mbps in a stationary position under ideal conditions, most operators are targeting download speeds of around 384kbps and upload speeds of 128kbps.

Siemens will offer base stations, modems and PC cards based on Flash-OFDM technology in the second quarter of 2005, according to Siemens spokeswoman Marion Bludszuweit.

The German company sees a market for the new broadband technology in Eastern Europe, where numerous operators have capacity in the 450MHz frequency band, she said.

Howver, whether a market for the technology will emerge in Western Europe remains to be seen.

The 450MHz band is not as available in the western region of Europe as it is in the eastern part. For another, although Flarion's technology can operate in the same radio spectrum and use the same antennas as Europe's 3G high-speed mobile systems, spectrum licences currently prohibit the use of 3G radio waves by alternative technologies.

Last month, T-Mobile International, one of Europe's largest mobile operators and providers of new 3G services, began testing Flash-OFDM technology in The Hague, Netherlands. Vodafone Group is planning a field test in Tokyo before the end of the year.

Nextel Communications became the first US company to test the broadband wireless technology several months ago.

In addition to Flash-OFDM, Siemens plans next year to offer wireless broadband access systems based on WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technologies, according to Bludszuweit.

WiMax technology, based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) 802.16 standard, can extend the reach of wireless broadband over longer distances and at higher speeds than current Wi-Fi or Bluetooth systems.

Its access range, for instance, is up to around 48km, compared with Wi-Fi's 100m and Bluetooth's 10m. It supports data transmission speeds up to 70mbps, compared with the popular 802.11b Wi-Fi standard's 11mbps or the 802.11a's 54mbps.

HSDPA technology, on the other hand, is an enhancement to 3G cellular systems. Aimed at heavy data users, the technology is designed to boost 3G data speeds up to 3mbps for downlink connections and 384kbps for uplink connections, according to Bludszuweit. It offers a peak downlink speed of 14.4mbps.

Siemens has no current plans to integrate all three technologies into one PC card but will offer each separately, Bludszuweit said.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications