CTIA: Samsung pushes CDMA as Wi-Fi alternative

Hospitals, office buildings and campuses can be networked more securely and with less interference using a 3G (third-generation) mobile wireless infrastructure than with Wi-Fi wireless LANs, according to Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which Monday unveiled for the U.S. market a set of products that mobile operators can sell to their customers for local-area 3G.

The offering, called InfoMobile @Cell, is intended to leverage CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 2000-1x EV-DO (Evolution-Data Only) for high-speed data networking in local areas instead of the wide, public coverage areas usually associated with 3G mobile data networks. Samsung, based in Seoul, already offers the product in South Korea. It should provide more than 1M bps (bit per second) of throughput to each user and avoid two problems that have been associated with Wi-Fi, according to Jim Parker, product marketing manager for wireless systems at Samsung Telecommunications America, in Richardson, Texas. Users could access the network using a PC Card client device in a notebook computer as well as with mobile devices specifically made for EV-DO.

CDMA 2000-1x EV-DO is a high-speed version of CDMA, with a maximum carrying capacity of 2.4M bps, designed to carry only data traffic. It has been deployed in several areas of Japan and South Korea, according to Samsung.

Because EV-DO uses radio spectrum dedicated solely to a wireless operator, it doesn't face the kind of interference that's possible in the unlicensed 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band, he said. That band also is used by cordless phones and microwave ovens. In addition, CDMA was designed from the ground up to be highly secure, whereas many Wi-Fi systems have only weak security, Parker said in an interview here at the CTIA Wireless trade show, where the products were announced and displayed.

Carriers could sell the InfoMobile @Cell infrastructure to customers whether or not they have deployed EV-DO across a wide cellular network. If and when the carrier deployed EV-DO in the wide area, users of the local network could be smoothly handed off to the wide-area network as they left the immediate area, Parker said. That's an advantage over Wi-Fi, which uses frequencies and fundamental technologies that are different from CDMA so it's harder to hand off users to a cellular network.

"There's so many discrete differences, it's a tough nut to crack," Parker said.

Instead of wireless access points like those in Wi-Fi networks, an EV-DO building or campus network would use a coaxial cable as an antenna, which in some cases would be more efficient for reaching all areas of the facility.

The key hardware in the system includes a rack-mounted Access Network Controller for call processing and interfacing to a wired network, as well as an Access Network Transceiver System consisting of Digital Main Units and Radio RF (radio frequency) Units. Samsung did not disclose pricing. The company does not yet have any carrier customers for InfoMobile @Cell in the U.S., Parker said.

Also Monday, Samsung announced the Pico Base Transceiver System, a small CDMA base station designed specifically to provide coverage along highways and in certain indoor locations, such as airports and convention centers, where the existing outdoor cellular network can't meet call demand. The Pico Base Transceiver System can support as many as 320 simultaneous calls.

The company also introduced InfoMobile 3GS, which provides the functions of a PBX (private branch exchange) to mobile phones in an enterprise or campus. If a carrier installed the InfoMobile 3GS in an enterprise, employees who were customers of the carrier could take advantage of PBX features while on site. Those features might include dialing by internal extensions and automatic call routing from the employee's wired phone to his wireless phone. Samsung did not provide pricing information for the Pico Base Transceiver System or InfoMobile 3GS.

The CTIA show, sponsored by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, continues through Wednesday.

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