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Newfangled-wireless firm wins a client

Iospan Wireless announces its first customer for a new generation of wireless Internet access equipment that works even if the signal has to pass through forests.

Iospan Wireless on Monday announced its first customer for a new generation of wireless Internet access equipment that works even if the signal has to pass through forests.

San Jose, Calif.-based Iospan has licensed the technology to ARM International, an Indian telecommunications gear maker whose customers include several major wireless carriers in India.

The deal is among the largest to involve a new type of technology that wirelessly sends Internet access through the same flock of birds or house walls that would block transmissions by earlier generations of equipment.

This earlier generation of technology, known as "fixed wireless," gets its name from the antenna needed to deliver the Internet access, which has to be fixed about 1,000 feet in the air. Much smaller antennas on homes receive the signal. The two antennas need to be within each other's line of sight. If not, the signal does not get through.

Iospan is one of a number of companies offering "non-line-of-sight" systems. Another example is NextNet Wireless, which claims to be the first to offer these systems in the United States.

NextNet Vice President Charles Riggle said about 130 people in Pocahontas, Iowa, have been using the company's technology since early December to get broadband Internet access.

Another company with non-line-of-sight products is Netro. And Sprint is using the equipment on a trial basis in four U.S. cities, Sprint said.

The average speed for the Iospan network during recent trials was 6 megabits per second, or 100 times faster than a dial-up connection.

Iospan is one of a growing number of phone and cable companies looking to India's telecommunications market for new business. Gartner Dataquest estimates there will be 40 million Internet users in India by 2005, up from 8 million.

Both San Jose-based Hybrid and London-based Airspan sell fixed-wireless data systems to Indian companies.

Qualcomm, Lucent Technologies, Ericsson and Motorola have all made investments or started doing business in India in the past year.