4G and OFDM

[via Om Malik] John Yunker writes:

[Qualcomm’s] MediaFLO is a $800 million bet on consumer demand for TV content. According to the press release, Qualcomm “intends to offer the network as a shared resource for U.S. CDMA2000 and WCDMA (UMTS) cellular operators, enabling them to deliver mobile interactive multimedia to their wireless subscribers without the cost of network deployment and operation.” Sounds awfully altruistic, doesn’t it?

Basically, Qualcomm wants to prime the pump for significant broadband delivery/demand. Carriers have not exactly been tripping over themselves to deploy EV-DO networks. And even when Verizon Wireless and Sprint do get those networks up nationally there’s no guarantee the networks will be able to provide the type of high-speed A/V feeds that consumers will likely want. By dedicating a separate network specifically to broadcasting content (FLO stands for forward-link only) Qualcomm creates a nice wholesale content delivery business. All carriers need to do is start upgrading their subscribers to the new handsets that include the brand new FLO-ready chips.

I’ve read a few articles that point to MediaFLO as a yet another example of how WiMAX will ultimately fail. After all, the thinking goes, if all these networks are live and pumping huge amounts of data by the time WiMAX goes live, why would carriers even bother with WiMAX?

Yet despite the real or perceived conflicts, WiMAX and FLO have one thing in common: OFDM. OFDM stands for orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (sometimes acronyms are better left untranslated). All you need to know is that OFDM is the cornerstone technology for 4G. Even Flarion, the technology that Nextel is currently testing for its next broadband wireless network, is using OFDM.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.