Motorola pushes WiMAX for ‘personal broadband’ amid lack of 11n standard

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Motorola pushes WiMAX for 'personal broadband' amid lack of 11n standard

Arlington Heights (IL) – With a push from Motorola-backed group World-Wide Spectrum Efficiency to center frequency distribution for 802.11n wireless networks around the 2.4 GHz band, having failed resoundingly, and with the group having effectively disbanded – with Airgo Networks’ True MIMO going its own way, and most of the rest of the industry going the other – Motorola has been seen recently as a company going it alone.

This week, with multiple industry trade shows going on simultaneously, including Computex and Globalcomm, Motorola may be looking for refuge in a different IEEE standard, testing the waters to see if 802.16e has the potential for being leveraged for use in some of those markets where “draft 11n” equipment may not have either the backing or the performance levels to make a solid entry.

This morning’s announcement by Motorola of a contract win to build 802.16e WiMAX networks in Pakistan, is interesting for its wording. First of all, it doesn’t mention Pakistan much. Instead, it quotes its CTO, Dan Coombes, as saying, “Motorola would like to drive the ecosystem to widespread adoption and support for WiMAX chipsets, and by driving an end-to-end architecture for personal broadband.” Earlier, the statement characterized the Pakistan win as giving Motorola an opportunity for “plans to develop a comprehensive ecosystem for personal broadband ‘on the go.'”

Last November, back with finalized 11n technology seemed to be just around the corner, the big news was Nokia’s push to open up personal wireless computing access points for use by cellular networks, through Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) technology. Now, Motorola’s Coombes seems to be pushing a similar concept, though with WiMAX as the backbone: “WiMAX provides a critical technology for enabling and ensuring seamless mobility among such technologies as cellular, broadband wireless, WiFi, and wireline,” he stated this morning, “and can be used by many types of operators to meet their specific business case and needs.”

There may very well be a business “paradigm” for creating a “platform” for “leveraging” English-language words for multiple purposes; and at Globalcomm this morning, Coombes placed Motorola squarely within that paradigm, with his discussion entitled, “Creating an End-to-end Ecosystem for WiMAX Networks.” In billing Coombes’ talk, Motorola characterized WiMAX as “built on the technology heritage of WiFi,” which appears to try to cast the WiFi ecosystem – where 11n is still an embryonic member – in the past tense.

Last week, Tim Higgins’ test of draft 11n and Airgo True MIMO routers for Tom’s Networking revealed performance levels that were not only lower than expected, and much lower than touted, but actually lower than 11g routers at medium distances. Motorola, in partnership with its spun-off semiconductor division, Freescale, is expected to go its own peculiar direction with 11n-class technology, but it isn’t clear yet what direction that is. While we expected to learn more about that direction from Globalcomm, what we’re hearing is a curious WiMAX message that could be a signal of an upcoming strategy shift.