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Nortel signs deals for high-speed wireless modems

The company signs separate deals with Sierra Wireless and Xircom to develop high-speed modems for future third-generation wireless networks.

    Nortel Networks announced Monday that it has signed separate deals with Sierra Wireless and Xircom to develop high-speed modems for future third-generation wireless networks.

    The communications equipment powerhouse plans to make the wireless modems available by the first half of 2002, when high-speed third-generation, or 3G, wireless networks begin to arrive.

    Nortel will help fund the development and offer marketing and technical support, the company said. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

    Third-generation wireless technologies are expected to enable high-speed, always-on Internet connections for mobile phones, handheld computers, laptops and other devices in a few years. Estimates vary as to when 3G systems will be available, but most analysts and industry experts expect the technology to be well-received once it becomes available.

    Many wireless carriers plan to upgrade their wireless voice networks, which typically are capable of only slow data connections, over the next few years. Nortel has signed 3G network deals with carriers such as AT&T, BT Cellnet in the United Kingdom, and Airtel and Xfera in Spain.

    Wireless hardware makers see related story: Congressmen press for 3G wirelessXircom and Sierra Wireless are expected to develop wireless modems to fit PC Card and compact flash slots, as well as embedded systems. Both companies will develop multimode modems based on the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) standards. UMTS is the 3G data technology for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) wireless networks.

    In October, Sierra Wireless announced a similar 3G wireless development deal with Lucent Technologies. The company also introduced a wireless PC Card modem for Metricom's new 128-kilobit per second Ricochet network in the fall.