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Siemens backs new wireless technology

The company teams up with Flarion, which makes a new kind of wireless technology that competes with Wi-Fi and 3G cellular.

German telecommunications gear maker Siemens is backing a new kind of broadband wireless technology that will compete with Wi-Fi and 3G cellular services.

The company on Friday said it is partnering with Flarion Technologies to develop wireless infrastructure products that use a cellular technology called Flash-OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing).

Under the terms of the agreement, Flarion will develop the basic equipment to meet Siemens' product specifications. Siemens expects to begin offering a Flash-OFDM product by the second quarter of 2005.

Several cell phone service providers are already testing Flarion's technology, including Vodafone, Nextel Communications and T-Mobile. Nextel has been offering a commercial service using Flash-OFDM since April in North Carolina.

Siemens is among the first major telecommunications equipment makers to adopt the technology. It should provide a shot in the arm to Flarion's efforts to promote the technology.

In February, Flarion announced that it was working with Motorola on a special public-safety project in Washington, D.C. But the companies have not announced an agreement to incorporate the technology in any of Motorola's products.

OFDM transmits multiple signals simultaneously over a single transmission path, such as a cable or wireless system. The data is spread over a large number of carriers that are spaced apart at precise frequencies. Flarion has developed its own flavor of OFDM, called , which uses multiple tones to quickly hop between frequencies to spread signals over a given spectrum band.

Flash-OFDM is an attractive technology, because it offers relatively high connection speeds over an unlicensed and unused frequency. It offers connection rates of 1.5 megabits per second. Cellular providers offer data rates of only 300 kilobits per second to 500kbps over CDMA, or Code Division Multiple Access, services.

Data rates over Wi-Fi are still higher than Flash-OFDM. Services using the 802.11b specification can handle speeds up to 11mbps. The 802.11g specification has optimal rates of 54mbps. And the proposed next-generation W-Fi standard, 802.11n, will enable throughput rates of up to 100mbps.

Unlike Wi-Fi technology, Flash-OFDM also allows mobile wireless users to connect to the network even while traveling at high speeds, such as on a train.

Flash-OFDM uses the 450-megahertz frequency, which had been occupied by Nordic Mobile Telephone to provide analog telephony services. Since the introduction of digital mobile communications, this unlicensed radio frequency has been relatively unused. Eastern European and Asian countries have taken the lead in deploying services in this frequency, because it provides them an affordable way to offer broadband wireless.

The next generation of cellular technology from Qualcomm, called CDMA2000 1xEVDO (Evolution Data Optimized), also uses this radio frequency.