By Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent
A new communications tool that "whispers" on busy radio channels could
enable broadband Internet services for on-the-go wireless devices or hook-up
homes that cannot yet get fast Web access, its inventor said.
xMax, the latest innovation in broadband communications, is a very
quiet radio system that uses radio channels already filled up with
noisy pager or TV signals, said inventor Joe Bobier.
"xMax is trespassing radio frequencies, although trespassing is not the
right word, because we're allowed to transmit a signal if it doesn't
interfere with other, stronger signals," said Bobier.
What is unique about the system is that it can emit signals that are
too weak to be picked up by normal antennas, but that can be "heard"
by special aerials which know where to "listen," thus enabling dual
usage of the same scarce radio spectrum.
The technology could interest a telecoms or Internet operator with no
radio spectrum because it can begin a wireless broadband service with
very few base stations and add more stations and increase density as
It is also appealing for rural areas which operators find too costly
to cover with the current third generation mobile phone networks which
need base stations every few miles.
"We're talking about a 400 to 500 percent improvement in range,"
Bobier said, adding that this was still much better than Flash-OFDM,
also touted as a rural area broadband system.
XG Technology, the Florida-based company which owns xMax, is in
discussions with several chip makers and equipment makers to build the
Radio chips for devices should be in the $5-$6 range when built in
volume while base stations will be around $350,000. Those prices are
competitive considering the range covered.
LOW FREQUENCY BANDS
Stuart Schwartz, an electrical engineering professor at Princeton
University, said xMax is not an efficient system to transport data
through the airwaves, "but it is doing it in a benign way. You won't
even know it's there. It's very clever."
The advantage is not only that radio spectrum can be used twice and
that xMax needs no special radio band of its own, but especially that
it can sit in the valuable low frequency bands which
characteristically carry very far and through buildings.
Other new broadband Internet technologies, such as WiMAX and
Flash-OFDM, need dedicated radio frequency bands. If they are situated
in frequency ranges above 1 Gigahertz, the signal has trouble
penetrating buildings and other obstacles, or traveling over distances
longer than a few miles.
"We offer long range as well as high speed," Bobier said.
The radio technology can also be used in higher frequencies, and even
in wired systems, but the company aims at low frequency wireless
"The sweet spot for xMax happens to be in the lower frequencies," said
Rick Mooers, executive chairman of XG Technology.
Bobier found a way to put one bit of data on one radio frequency cycle
and recover that weak signal with a newly invented filter. If xMax
uses a powerful carrier signal -- which does require a dedicated,
albeit very narrow radio band -- it can even extend its range and
The first xMax network is currently being built in Miami and Fort
Lauderdale where one base station can deliver broadband Internet over
a 40 square mile area.
The capacity of that wireless network is not bigger than any other
wireless technology, which means that more base stations need to be
added if a certain number of people are using the network -- typically
several hundreds to a 1,000 users.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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