NextWave spells out plans for WiMAX chips

NextWave Broadband, the chip subsidiary of NextWave Wireless, announced plans for a family of WiMAX baseband and multi-band RFIC chipset platforms. The chipsets, designed by the company's Advanced Technology Group, incorporate several differentiating elements, says NextWave. Namely, the chipsets are designed to reduce power consumption, enable a variety of advanced multimedia applications such as video and allow seamless operation and roaming across worldwide WiMAX frequencies and profiles. In addition, the chipsets incorporate key features to accelerate the convergence of mobile wireless devices with consumer electronics products across WAN and LAN environments.

"We believe that WiMAX will require gobs of bandwidth and throughput, and being able to work on different bands will allow operators to switch between multiple bands depending on the user application to manage traffic flow," Mark Kelley, general manager of NextWave Broadband's Advanced Technology Group, told FierceWiFi. "This ties the knot for players who want spectrum but can't get it in the same band over the entire market."

The ability to switch between different frequencies is particularly important to NextWave Wireless' strategy in general. It is in a unique position of owning a rather substantial swathe of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz and Advanced Wireless System bands (1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz), while amassing pieces to make it a provider of broadband products and technology. In addition to developing WiMAX chipsets, NextWave has gotten into the deployment of WiFi networks through the $13.3-million acquisition of Go Networks. The company is also involved in mobile video to cell phones through the acquisition of PacketVideo.

But a service provider is not something the company has aspirations for. The company desires to make spectrum available to companies that want to enter the mobile broadband space and use its products and technologies, including TD-CDMA technology it can offer since it purchased IPWireless in April. 

"Chips play an important role for us. The folks we are talking to include existing carriers, players on the global stage and a lot of companies in the media and content space that want to enter the wireless space," according to Roy Berger, NextWave's executive vice president of marketing and communications.

Not only has NextWave acquired a nationwide footprint of spectrum assets in the U.S., but it also active in Europe. It now has a nationwide spectrum footprint in Germany and Switzerland, Berger said. It's clear that companies like Google and News Corp. want a piece of the wireless pie but don't want to acquire spectrum to do it.

"What we want to respond to customers with is an end-to-end solution," Berger said. "If they want want to enter the space, we can deliver the technology solution they are looking for and at the same time offer a licensing solution. We are starting to get some positive response to that story. It fits nicely, and it will accelerate customer adoption of our technology."

Kelley said NextWave plans to become a powerful contender in the WiMAX chip market, and the company is putting its money where its mouth is. NextWave, which quietly went public last year and raised $355 million in March, plans to increase its workforce in the chipset division from about 250 today to some 350 people next year. And it intends to launch a test market this fall in Henderson, Nev., to show off its capabilities. Interestingly, NextWave believes the reputation its PacketVideo subsidiary has with original development manufacturers (ODMs) will assist the company in getting its foot in the door with WiMAX.

Samples of the company's first generation WiMAX baseband system-on-a-chip (SOC) and matched multi-band RFIC will be available this quarter. Initial availability of the company's second generation chips, designed for high-volume commercial production, is planned for the first half of 2008.

"Our announcement should eliminate the questions people have had about our commitment to WiMAX and the chip market," Berger said. - Lynnette

P.S. We're less than two weeks away from the FierceMarkets WiMAX Strategies conference. Come join me in Chicago on June 21. We have some very compelling keynotes, including Barry West of Sprint Nextel and Scott Richardson of Clearwire. Plus you'll get to hear more about NextWave's strategy. Register today.