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Qualcomm is calling it Ultra Mobile Broadband, but it smells like a WiMax competitor: Qualcomm has no interest in mobile WiMax, and lost out in the supplier deal to several WiMax-backing firms when Sprint picked its fourth-generation network architecture. But they’re out there plugging UMB, an evolution for its CDMA2000 standards that are currently deployed as EVDO. UMB can handle larger swaths of spectrum—up to 20 MHz channels, Qualcomm says—and speeds of up to 40 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. They’re demonstrating a complete solution from modem to base station for carriers at the cell industry trade show this week.
(I believe UMB has previously also been known as EVDO Rev. C, just for some clarity, and the technology approach is what was once called 802.20 and was brought into the company through its acquisition of Flarion.)
One reason Sprint chose mobile WiMax over Qualcomm and other options was that they wanted many suppliers an a rich ecosystems. Mobile WiMax, even though it’s still an infant technology in many ways, has a lot of people pouring a lot of money in who will all be competing against one another. In the Qualcomm world, there’s Qualcomm and a few partners, but nothing like the robust multi-vendor jungle that WiMax appears to be growing.
The IEEE 802.20 group has new leadership: The IEEE will allow the group standardizing an alternative to WiMax (802.16) to continue work after a two-month suspension following alleged concerns over bias in the leadership. The 802.20 chair was accused of being a Qualcomm consultant without disclosing that fact; Qualcomm’s Flarion has technology that could be at the center of 802.20. A new chair and other offices will be elected. Nancy Gohring of IDG News Service notes that 802.20 was a mobility split-off from 802.16, where members didn’t want to apply mobility on top of a fixed standard.
The dispute has risen to a level the Wall Street Journal notices: The Journal and other sources report that the 802.20 working group, which is devising a plan for mobile broadband wireless, is embroiled in conflict over Qualcomm’s participation through third parties. The chair Jerry Upton, the Journal states, has “disclosed” that he is a paid consultant for Qualcomm. This was unknown prior to recent coverage, and is highly irregular.
Intel and other parties are alleging improper voting activity by a group that is voting in a bloc. The chair of the IEEE made mention of a “lack of transparency” in company affiliation among other issues.
802.20 is considering Flarion’s method of using OFDM, similar to WiMax, for cellular network evolution. Qualcomm purchased Flarion last year. Qualcomm says that it is hedging 802.20 against its own CDMA technology to provide a sort of diversity in case the tide turns against CDMA.