If Your Wireless Broadband Technology Is So Great, Why Do You Only Support Voice?

About a year ago, a previously unheard of company started touting their “xMax” wireless technology, saying it could deliver high data speeds over great distances at low power, in unlicensed frequency. We were pretty skeptical of the claims, largely because the only source that supported them in some media coverage was a university professor on the company’s board of directors, whose obvious bias wasn’t disclosed. Too many times have wireless technologies failed to live up to their hype, and a general rule of thumb is that the bigger the claims about a technology, the less of them it can actually live up to. The company ran a staged test for the media several months ago, “proving” the technology, but results from any real-world installations are hard to come by. Nevertheless, the company now says it is accepting applications from regional dealers and carriers to launch a nationwide VoIP network using its technology, which it claims reduces “the cost of deploying wireless broadband to the point where they can compete with traditional communications companies.”

There’s two sets of issues here. First are the technical ones, with the biggest being if the technology actually works in real-world deployments, which isn’t clear. Also, the company is yet to deliver its consumer handset. The other issues are commercial — why, if xMax is so wonderful at “wireless broadband”, is the only application it’s supporting voice? And why go to all the trouble to compete in a ridiculously crowded market with established players, and more importantly, rapidly falling prices? The company says that a regional carrier could build a voice network for far less than if they were using cellular equipment in licensed spectrum. That may be true, but it misses the point — plenty of options for mobile voice coverage already exist, and if somebody wants to get into that game, why bother building infrastructure, with all the attendant backhaul and maintenance costs, instead of just setting up a virtual operator? Further clouding things is the statement that the company “hired the London office of Credit Suisse as a strategic adviser for the company’s technology launch.” Why hire an investment bank to advise on a technology launch? Never fear, though, the company plans to use “grassroots” marketing to roll things out on “a viral basis” (bonus points if you can explain what that means in the comments). Previously, the company said it would launch overseas because it was afraid of battling the US telecom lobby. It looks like it’s had a change of heart, perhaps realizing that it’s such a blip on these companies’ radar that it’s not worth worrying about.

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