Iospan Prepares an AirBurst

Armed with technology that shares some similarities with high-speed cable-modem architecture, Iospan Wireless Inc. is trying to make airwaves with a new non-line-of-sight, fixed-wireless broadband system called "AirBurst."

Unlike traditional line-of-sight wireless architecture, the San Jose, Calif.-based firm (formerly Gigabit Wireless Inc.) claims its technology would not require residential and business customers to position equipment in precise locations without degrading data signals using MIMO-OFDC (multiple-input, multiple-output-orthogonal frequency division multiplexing).

More specifically, Iospan will use a "smart" multiple-antenna architecture to essentially weave high-speed data signals around buildings and other obstructions.

"Our system doesn't require any direct pointing," said Iospan vice president of marketing Buck Gee, a former Com21 Inc. executive. Customers would be able to fix Iospan's premise device in any wall of a home and enjoy non-line-of-sight service, he said. An indoor version is also on the drawing board, Gee added.

Iospan expects to launch its "AirBurst Broadband Wireless Access" (BWA) in the second half of 2001, and market it to WorldCom Inc., Sprint Corp. and other companies with wireless spectrum in the bank and their competitive sights set on digital subscriber line and cable-based high-speed providers.

The company believes that time-to-market will be fast enough to beat the likes of Vyyo Inc., Hybrid Networks Inc., Airspan and Cisco Systems Inc. to the non-line-of-sight punch. It's looking to get a jump on a market projected to reach $16.3 billion worldwide by 2004, according to recent research from The Strategis Group.

Founded in 1998, Iospan has already closed a $22-million investment round with Accel and US Venture Partners, and plans to raise another $50 million to $60 million later this month. Today, Iospan has 180 employees; more than 140 of them are engineers.

Iospan's Airburst system components closely mirror those of a cable modem setup. Its "Airburst Access Device" serves as the modem, while its "Base Station" acts like a cable modem termination system and its "system manager" manages and controls the wireless network.

The company also said its technology is suited for mass deployment because the equipment is designed for self-installation.

"You can accelerate the pace of deployment because subscribers can install their own equipment," Gee said, noting that technical installation procedures slowed down cable modem rollouts early on. "Today, techs have to mount [fixed-wireless] technology. If you reduce or eliminate the cost of installation, prices go lower and penetration goes higher."

Initially, Iospan will target the 2.5 gigahertz spectrum in the U.S., and eventually hop the pond and use 3.5 GHz to service homes in regions with poor wired infrastructure.

Iospan's system will operate in 2 megahertz channels with each channel running 64 quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM)-enough to provide symmetric or asymmetric speeds of 13 megabits per second per channel, Gee said.

While Iospan's current focus is data, the company intends to add voice capabilities, Gee said. The company's technology will allow it to reuse spectrum every second cell in its wireless network, he added. Each of those cells should average a radius of five miles.

"In the [San Francisco] Bay Area, we can cover it with 25 cell sites," Gee said.