Beceem steps up CDMA/WiMAX dongle efforts

Beceem, a US-based WiMAX device chipset supplier, has entered into a formal partnership with Franklin Wireless to continue development of their 3G CDMA/4G USB modem product (the U300). The U300 was first made available by Sprint Nextel last month, which can be used on both the US mobile operator’s EV-DO network and the mobile WiMAX network of Clearwire, in which Sprint Nextel has a 51 percent stake.

But there is an important difference between ‘working together’ and formal partnership, says Lars Johnsson, VP of business development at Beceem. “Working together would mean combining products from both companies to generate a dual-mode product, where not much in-depth design information is shared when the companies work at arms length,” he says. “Our view of a collaboration is a deeper level of partnership where both companies look at the best way to closely integrate the two individual products to allow the smallest footprint, the lowest power consumption and the best hand-over performance between the two modes.”

US-based Franklin Wireless is an affiliate of Korean CMDA modem maker, Cmotech, which has built and shipped CDMA products using Qualcomm chips for over ten years.

Providing mobile broadband widespread coverage, through recourse to cellular networks – especially when WiMAX is initially being rolled out and its footprint is small – is seen by some analysts as essential if mobile WiMAX is to grow. “The availability of widespread network coverage is one of the most critical success factors for mobile broadband wireless adoption,” says Michael Thelander, CEO of Signals Research Group. “With mobile WiMAX network coverage still in its early stages, the dual-mode Franklin USB modem with the Beceem WiMAX chip is a significant step towards accelerating the adoption of mobile WiMAX.”

Although the initial demand for 3G/WiMAX USB dongles will primarily be for EV-DO networks, as most of the major mobile operators with WiMAX interests to date run CDMA 3G (such as Sprint in the US, KT in Korea, and KDDI in Japan), Johnsson says development is underway for a WCDMA/WiMAX USB dongle.  “We have already started the initial design for a WCDMA/WiMAX dongle, and have been able to utilise the experience from [U300],” he says

Johnsson would not be drawn on how the different IPR royalty arrangements with 3G (where Qualcomm dominates) would hike up the factory price of a WIMAX/3G dongle compared with a WiMAX-only device. WiMAX chipset players have opted for a patent pool arrangement with the view to lowering design and manufacturing costs.

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