By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sarasota, Fla. — Retailers could eventually be selling mobile VoIP phones and service that will be cheaper than cellular service, if a technology startup has its way.
xG Technology, whose roots are in wireless local loop and dial-up ISP services, wants to deliver wireless VoIP through cordless-phone frequencies in the unlicensed 902-928MHz band without interfering with other 900MHz-band products. Using its xMax technology, the company envisions combination Wi-Fi/xMax phones that operate over a home's wireless network and through cellular-like base stations to deliver voice service to users in homes and in moving vehicles.
The company envisions unlimited-voice plans at $49.99/month and 1,500-minute plans at $39.99/month, including unlimited VoIP-to-VoIP minutes.
The company can deliver cheaper-than-cellular plans, said chairman Richard Mooers, because the network is built from the ground up as a VoIP network, doesn't require the purchase of licensed spectrum, and bypasses the local telephone network by tapping directly into the Internet, he explained. In addition, the first base station in a market can cover 1,100 square miles, and additional base stations can be added gradually to accommodate subscriber growth. Such scalability means that carriers don't have to make a large investment in multiple base stations before turning on service, xG said.
Initially, no data services are planned. The technology doesn't allow for seamless handoffs from a home Wi-Fi network to the base stations.
xG plans to roll out its service though "dealers" who would be entitled to build, operate and market the network in exclusive territories. Consumers subscribing to one dealer's network would be able to roam on the other dealers' networks without incurring roaming charges.
xG envisions the first dealers being technology entrepreneurs, wired and wireless ISPs, and competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) that are trying to compete with local phone companies.
The voice capacity of a single base station is 700 simultaneous users, which translates conservatively into 10,000 subscribers based on current cellular-usage patterns, Mooers said. Additional base stations, costing only $50,000 each, can be rolled out as needed.
A single base station delivers wide range because it uses the 900MHz band coupled with "single-cycle modulation" technology that "pushes only a single cycle at a time," Mooers explained. The combination also delivers strong in-building penetration, he said.
As dealers add base stations, phones will power down to extend battery life. The phones operate at up to about 0.6 watts of output like cellular phones, but as base stations are added, the phones can power down to as little as 25 milliwatts to reach a base station up to 18 miles away, he said. Eventually, as a network matures, talk times will get to standby-time levels, he added.
Dealers will buy handsets at $150 from xG and sell them at $199.
The network won't interfere with other 900MHz unlicensed devices because "we look like a dead carrier signal to them with nothing modulated on it." Mooers explained. "Our phones see our base stations, but not them [other devices]," because the phones look for xMax-encoded VoIP data, he added.
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