Motorola's WiMax Ecosystem

By Jeff Goldman

June 16, 2006

The company's wireless 4G brand — MOTOwi4 — will add mobile WiMax to the mix next year, including WiMax-capable phone handsets.

Motorola has announced its plans to develop what the company calls a “comprehensive ecosystem for personal broadband ‘on the go.’” The aim is to support Motorola’s MOTOwi4 wireless broadband strategy by working with a range of different companies to ensure that mobile WiMax becomes both affordable and widely available.

David Coombes, Senior Vice President of Wireless Broadband Networks and CTO for Motorola Networks and Enterprise, says companies have to work together to offer a total end-to-end solution to the customer. “This has to be a standard that’s supported by the industry if it’s going to really take off,” he says.

Carriers need access to a complete product ecosystem, Coombes says, to feel comfortable taking the leap into WiMax. “You always like to sell your stuff exclusively to an operator, but history has shown that operators would like to have two suppliers for their stuff – and so it’s important that other large manufacturers are present in the marketplace,” he says.

A multi-company solution, Coombes says, also adds credibility. “If it’s all Motorola, or all some other company, then people say, ‘Is it really doing what you say it’s doing?’ – as opposed to when two different companies are making their equipment work together,” he says.

Motorola’s WiMax strategy, Coombes says, is focused strictly on 802.16e, or mobile WiMax – when mobility is an option, he says, there’s no point in offering a fixed solution as well. Similarly, Coombes says WiMax doesn’t compete with Motorola’s 802.11n strategy. “It’s really a different focus,” he says. “WiMax is wide area, while 802.11 technology has a more limited range.”

The eventual aim is to have a system that offers the same kind of mobility as cellular does today. “We expect handsets on these systems to be fully mobile,” Coombes says. “They’ll have multi-mode capability – in other words, cellular capability, whether it’s GSM- or CDMA-based technologies, plus WiMax, plus Wi-Fi.”

A multi-mode solution, Coombes says, is really the only way to get these kinds of systems implemented. “With the dual-mode units, a GSM operator could start installing a WiMax network, and they’ll start off from the core of the city and work their way out, putting more and more traffic onto the system as they build it out,” he says.

Coombes says Motorola will be shipping systems for production in the first quarter of next year. “We’ll actually be in trials with mobility this year – that was announced last year with Sprint – and we expect volume handsets to start towards the end of ’07 or early ’08,” he says.

The name MOTOwi4 is a play on the words Motorola, wireless and 4G. “A lot of companies have been calling this stuff Max this or Max that,” Coombes says. “We really wanted them to see that it’s more than just WiMax – it’s really setting the stage for operators to go to 4G.”



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