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Wireless Networks

Emerging Wireless Data Networks 

Recently (late 2000 & early 2001), three new wireless data networks have emerged on the map that need some understanding. These are Metricom's high-speed Ricochet network, IBurst and ArrayComm. 

Metricom (Discontinued Service in August 2001 because of financial problems and low acceptance rate)
Ricochet is an existing high-speed wireless network for accessing the Internet. It is currently (Dec 2000) available in 12 metropolitan cities and 15 airports. Ricochet allows users to access the Internet at 128 Kbps in new locations (first generation network was supported 28.8 Kbps speed in the Bay area, Seattle,  and Washington - at $29.95 for unlimited access). The new network access service at 128Kbps is priced at $99 per month for unlimited usage and requires a Ricochet-specific modem. .  More metropolitan areas are planned for coverage during 2001. For more information on Metricom, go to MobileInfo's Metricom page. Find the latest coverage and pricing info from Metricom web site.

ArrayComm Network
It uses SmartAntenna technology. The network is in trials in the United States and is used by the Personal Handyphone network in Japan. IBurst promises to provide 1 Mbps Internet connection when it becomes available. 

According to the vendor, SmartAntenna technology can greatly enhance capacity of wireless spectrum by an ingenious technique of adding a unique spatial metric to each transmission. Therefore, it can reuse the same channel many times over. through this technique, it overcomes the limitations of cellular technology which depends on a frequency, time slot or code for distinguishing different transmissions in the same geographic area. Using ArrayComm's IBurst technology, two users standing close to each other can share the same channel.

For more info, go to ArrayComm site

Mitsubishi's SWIFTComm (Information based on company's press release)
SWIFTComm's @irPointer, a pen-like device accesses the base stations housed on towers in cities or on highways, then links to SwiftComm's communications servers and routers that are connected through wire-line connections.

SWIFTcomm(TM), establishes real-time connections to the Internet from moving vehicles or mobile terminals over a direct IP (Internet protocol) link, even while traveling at high speeds. This wireless IP technology allows users a simple way to access the network and significantly reduces the time required for establishing connections. SWIFTcomm(TM) comprises mobile terminals, base stations, and a server for routing signals between the Internet, stations and terminals.

When compared to other proposed systems, a SWIFTcomm(TM) base station can serve more than 100 times the number of customers. In addition, the cost to establish a service network is one percent of an equivalent cellular network with the same coverage. Service and maintenance costs to run such a system are about half of a similar cellular network.

SWIFTcomm(TM) also features an original technology called Internet Packet Multiple Access (IPMA), wherein single-paired channels serve multiple terminals simultaneously. By virtue of Mitsubishi Materials' Khiva routing software, connections pass smoothly and imperceptibly as the vehicle or mobile terminal moves through different transmission zones.

The unprecedented reliability and ease of use of the SWIFTcomm(TM) system are due mainly to Mitsubishi Materials' super-narrowband technology, which uses readily available radio frequencies such as those used by taxis, delivery and other commercial services. This helps maintain steady connections while vehicles pass among large buildings in urban areas and even while accelerating to high speeds on highways.

Mitsubishi Materials has recently completed field trials of the SWIFTcomm(TM) technology in Oklahoma City, and is now in negotiations with prospective partners in the United States. These successful trials demonstrated SWIFTcomm's(TM) ability to transmit throughout a complex urban terrain, diverse topologies, highways and rural areas. Mitsubishi Materials hopes to establish SWIFTcomm(TM) as the industry standard for mobile Internet service and mobile multimedia access in the intelligent transport systems industry.

MobileInfo Advisory & Comments: These are interesting network technologies that hold promise. Metricom has been available for sometime. It works, its speed has been increased recently and its coverage is being expanded in 2001. The other two network technologies are just emerging in development and experimentation phase. Please be aware that network technologies do take a while to be proven. And these vendors must meet the economic and business liking of the wireless establishment. 

However, all three technologies are up against 3G initiatives of the big wireless infrastructure establishment. Metricom has been around for many years and in spite of interesting technology, had a very limited appeal to the investment community and larger wireless service providers so far. Recently, it has attracted enough funding to extend its coverage to 30-40 metropolitan areas over two years - still very sparse coverage for a national coverage. ArrayComm has a very significant potential and is headed by one of the brightest wireless engineers. We hope that it aligns itself with one of the larger players.  Mitsubishi's SwiftComm is relatively new and must await our appraisal as well as by other independent experts. Stay tuned in.

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