xG Technology defies its critics
Florida-based wireless start-up xG Technology is deploying the first mobile voice-over-IP networks utilizing the company’s revolutionary xMAX protocol, which many industry critics dismissed as unrealistic when the company announced the technology less than two years ago.
As of press time, xG engineers had tested an internal beta network for several weeks, and the company’s first commercial network deployment was set to begin before the end of March. The first generation of xMAX networks is designed to provide low-cost, mobile VoIP service over unlicensed spectrum in the 900 MHz band.
“We’re exactly on schedule — both strategically and in terms of the timeline — with everything we said we were going to do, which is really pleasing to me,” said xG Technology CEO Rick Mooers.
Joe Bobier, xG Technology president and inventor of the xMAX platform, said the beta network’s test results have met all of the company’s expectations, including the system’s bit-error rates and in-building coverage. The first-generation network supports data rates of 0.7 bit/hertz, which is enough to provide mobile voice service.
During the third quarter of this year, xG will unveil its second-generation system, which will be “several times” faster and will be able to support data services on smartphone-like devices, Bobier said. The improved data rates will be possible because the second-generation network will use high-order complexity, which will limit the range of the signal, he said.
“We should still outperform other broadband systems by two to three times,” Bobier said. “They’re subject to the same laws of physics that we are; we’re just starting from a better footprint.”
Such performance characteristics are welcome news to Far Reach Technologies, an ISP that is xG Technology’s first commercial customer. Having served Volusia and Flagler counties near Daytona as an ISP for 11 years, Far Reach was scheduled to begin deploying its xMAX VoIP network in March, have paying customers on the system in June and begin offering wireless data services over the network during the fourth quarter, said Russ White, Far Reach president.
Like many ISP executives, White said he previously had accepted the notion that his company would have to depend on phone and cable providers to provide connectivity to customers because the company would never have the funds to submit a winning bid in a spectrum auction. But the fact that xG Technology’s solution utilizes unlicensed spectrum and also costs less to deploy than other wireless broadband systems will allow Far Reach to become a carrier and connect directly with customers, he said.
“[xMAX] gives us an opportunity to build a network that is robust and resilient, at a fraction of the cost,” White said. “Before, there has never been an opportunity for someone at our level to attack [the cellular carriers’] market.”
Within 12 months, Far Reach plans to provide services to eight counties in the eastern part of central Florida, White said. While focusing on voice and data applications this year, Far Reach also is excited by the prospect of offering video by the end of 2008, when xG officials believe the company will offer the first 4G-compliant system in the U.S.
“We’re looking at 4G instead of 3G, so we’re going to be about two years ahead of the cellular carriers,” White said.
Mooers said he believes the Far Reach deployment story will be so compelling that it will alter long-held mindsets throughout the wireless industry.
“We said [xMAX] was disruptive; we said it was revolutionary; and we put it in the most disruptive economic model we could think of — a low-cost, almost no-cost, wide-area network that starts with mobility. And that’s what hasn’t been done before,” Mooers said.
“We can put our networks up for nearly nothing, and the other [wireless systems] are extremely expensive. As soon as we prove this out, people will recognize that. All those big companies that have made a buying decision — like Sprint spending $3 billion on WiMAX — will change their minds once they see this.”
XG TECHNOLOGY’S DEPLOYMENT PATH
February: Beta testing begins on company’s first internal network.
March: Installation of Far Reach Technologies’ network scheduled to begin.
April/May: First large shipment of 10,000 first-generation VoIP phones scheduled.
June: Far Reach to put its first paying customers on its xMAX network.
September: Next-generation network and smart-phone-like devices scheduled to be unveiled.
December 2008: 4G network system expected to be available.
Sources: xG Technology, Far Reach Technologies