WW-128 -- Vodafone Tries Wireless WAN in Tokyo

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W I R E L E S S W A T C H

Commentary on Japan's Wireless World
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Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 128
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ Viewpoint: Vodafone Tries Wireless WAN in Tokyo

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@@ Viewpoint: Vodafone Tries Wireless WAN in Tokyo

This summer Vodafone will conduct trials in Japan with wireless broadband
technologies provided by Flarion Technologies. The underlying proprietary
technology from Bell Labs is called FLASH-OFDM. Flarion offers a packet-
switched radio access and core network technology. It features end-to-end
IP-connectivity with 1.5Mbps download and 375kbps uplink speeds with a
low latency averaging 35ms.

Eight base-stations will cover metropolitan areas of Tokyo. Vodafone will
test the system performance, user mobility and scalability over the IP
network infrastructure. Commercially available FLASH-OFDM PC card modems
and PDAs will be used to test both enterprise productivity applications,
as well as gaming.

American Wireless carrier Nextel and Korea's SK Telecom and Hanaro have
trialled FLASH-OFDM. In North Carolina, Nextel has recently expanded its
trial over a larger coverage area to include paying subscribers. The
company has not decided, yet, if the technology will be the choice for
its next generation network.

An important hurdle for Flarion is standardization. The IEEE 802.20
group specifies the air interface for mobile broadband wireless access
(MBWA) for speeds and transmission rates greater than 1Mbps, and cell
ranges up to 15km.

MBWA also supports user mobility up to 250km/hour. During the
standardization process, Flarion has to cooperate with companies like
NTT DoCoMo -- not an easy task, as these big players have already
invested lots of resources in 3G and have the ability to 'interfere'
with the standardization process.

Flarion will certainly gain momentum if a large carrier group decides
to commercially offer services using its technology. If successful,
Flarion could benefit from its intellectual property in the same way
as Qualcomm did for CMDA.

Vodafone is therefore an interesting prospect for Flarion. The
announced trials, however, do not mean Vodafone has already decided
to commercially roll-out FLASH-OFDM. If the results are promising, we
believe that Vodafone will eventually deploy it as an overlay network
in areas that have a high demand for corporate data services.

Vodafone Japan is feeling the heat from KDDI's EV-DO roll-out, which
is getting serious about offering mobile WAN-solutions using their
EV-DO network. Using FLASH-OFDM, Vodafone could offer a similar
proposition to its corporate clients.

Although Flarion claims that its technology is well suited for VOIP,
we think Vodafone is too committed to its 3G Vodafone Global Standard
(VGS) to offer voice services to individual customers.

Besides generating some handsome revenues for the Vodafone Group,
Vodafone's Japanese subsidiary is also providing the world's largest
real-life test bed for next generation services and networks --
not too bad, as synergies go.

-- Arjen van Blokland

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Written by Arjen van Blokland; Edited by Roland Kelts
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