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Eight small telcos ink deals to evaluate new broadband wireless technology


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Eight small telcos aren’t waiting around to find out whether the FCC moves ahead with its plans to use a 4 Mb/s target for the proposed broadband Universal Service program—a move that would likely favor broadband wireless deployments, at least in areas that cannot get broadband today (CP: FCC study estimates $23.5 billion needed to bring broadband to unserved areas).Instead, the eight telcos have signed agreements to evaluate the roll out of mobile broadband technology from xG Technology that operates in unlicensed spectrum bands.

xG Technology is pioneering what the company calls “cognitive” wireless technology that can sense interference from other devices using the same spectrum and hop away from those frequencies, said Chris Whiteley, vice president of business development for xG Technology, in an interview. Initially the company is targeting spectrum between 902 and 928 MHz—a band used in the U.S. for garage door openers, baby monitors, cordless phones and some video surveillance. But a new version of a chip that uses technology developed by xG is scheduled for availability in September, and will also support communications in 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum in the 5.8 GHz range and will be able to shift between the two spectrum bands within 30 milliseconds.
Radio signals in the 900 MHz range penetrate buildings very well, Whiteley noted. “But as soon as you step outside, 5.8 GHz is a great line of sight [option] and you can offload capacity for outdoor use.”
In the future, the technology could be used in other spectrum bands, such as the TV white spaces band, Whiteley said.

Initial deployments were VoIP only; data coming soon
xG has field tested its technology in a 32-square mile network in Ft. Lauderale, Fla. supporting mobile VoIP services and also has a trial of a voice network underway with Texas-based Independent telco Townes Telecommunications. Whiteley said xG focused on supporting voice service initially because in comparison with data transmission “getting VoIP to work correctly on an IP mobile network is the tougher challenge.”

The new chip coming out in September will also support data services, and companies such as Townes Telecommunications that have already been working with xG will be the first to deploy devices with the new chips. xG does not manufacture chips but develops technology which will be implemented on a chip.

xG plans to implement its broadband wireless technology initially as a chip in a Mi-Fi wireless access point, enabling 3 Mb/s service to be shared by multiple WiFi-capable devices. In a typical rural deployment, the chips will communicate with radios mounted on 100-foot poles covering a radius of about 4.5 to 5 miles with a maximum power output of 1 watt.

Regulations currently prevent transmission at higher power levels, but xG is hopeful that regulators might consider an exception for rural areas, which could enable an individual tower to cover substantially greater distances. “We think there is a favorable policy climate to allow for increased power in under-served rural areas,” said Whiteley.
xG’s new chips will support VoIP and data communications simultaneously, Whiteley added. In addition, he said the towers are designed to be “self-organizing,” minimizing the engineering resources required for deployment. Ultimately, he said, the technology could be implemented on a chip in wireless handsets that also support 4G communications such as LTE, potentially enabling users to roam onto LTE networks in metropolitan areas.

Telcos that have signed agreements to evaluate the xG Technology include Redi-Call Communications of Delaware, TelAtlantic Communications of Virginia, Cook Telecom of California, Silver Star Telephone Company of Wyoming, Venture Communications Cooperative of South Dakota, Smart city Telecom of Florida, and Public Service Cellular of Georgia, as well as Townes Telecommunications.



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