A resurgence of Flash-OFDM?

Flash-OFDM has pretty much fallen to the wayside since Qualcomm bought the business in early 2006. Qualcomm's intentions for the technology are clear on its website: "to expand its already extensive portfolio of OFDMA intellectual property and enhance Qualcomm's industry-leading R&D organization with expertise in OFDMA technology and products."

However, the technology took an unexpected turn last week when telecom heavyweight TeliaSonera Finland Oyj made a deal to provision wireless broadband services from Digita Oy's Flash-OFDM broadband network that operates in the 450 MHz band in Finland. TeliaSonera is using the technology as a way to cost effectively extend the reach of its fixed broadband services in more difficult-to-reach areas of Finland (See story No. 2).

Could Flash-OFDM be finally gaining some momentum now even though it appears Qualcomm isn't even pushing the technology?

Flash-OFDM has always been heralded as a superior technical solution for high-speed data but was stymied by its proprietary nature. For its part, Flarion had struggled to find a major operator willing to deploy a proprietary technology. On its own, Flarion had conducted a promising trial with Nextel Communications, but the carrier decided against adopting Flash-OFDM when it merged with Sprint. The technology was gaining some inroads into the public-safety sector when the District of Columbia in early 2004 launched a pilot high-speed wireless broadband network with Motorola and Flarion. Flarion also had pinned its hopes outside of the U.S. through trials with South Korea's SK Telecom, Europe's Vodafone and T-Mobile. Yet no major telecom operator ever made a solid commitment to the technology--until now. If all goes well, TeliaSonera Finland may offer a blueprint for others, plus give Qualcomm a better footing in Europe, where it has always sought a bigger footprint.

According to Bill Davidson, vice president of global marketing and investor relations, Flarion provided Qualcomm with 125 OFDMA-related patents (mostly having to do with handoff in a mobile environment) as well as skilled engineers needed to build up its OFDMA expertise as all mobile networks are expected to evolve into OFDMA. It is staying out of the WiMAX market, at least until it sees a substantial market for it, Davidson said. But Qualcomm probably didn't count on a potential market for Flash-OFDM itself. --Lynnette