xG searching for a market for its cognitive radio network that really works

Lynnette LunaWhen it comes to xG Technology, wireless industry folks have taken a see-it-to-believe it approach to the company's claims of a carrier-class cognitive radio network that operates in unlicensed spectrum called xMax. The company has made many marketing missteps over the past several years, saying its technology would be rolled out "soon." But soon never came.

Rick Rotondo, a former executive at SpectrumBridge and Mesh Networks and now xG Technology's new vice president of marketing, admits that the company was too aggressive early on, making announcements too prematurely.

"Our philosophy now is put up or shut up," Rotondo said. "Our aim is to show that a cognitive radio network is real."

xMax technology is now deployed in a test network encompassing 32 square miles in Florida and a smaller network in Arkansas. Several analysts, including Craig Mathias, principal with the Farpoint Group, confirm that the technology does work after witnessing the network in Florida.

xMax technology is a frequency-agile radio capable of detecting interference in real time, handing off from channel to channel 33 times a second, Rotondo said. Rather than looking at the frequency domain for interference, xMax also senses the time domain to slice the interference even further.

The company has so far designed its network for the unlicensed 900 MHz band where Part 15 devices operate. The technology can also work in licensed bands. Rotondo said the unlicensed 900 MHz band is about 15 percent occupied in the time domain during at its most congested points. As such, xG Technology believes the xMax network can serve as an adjunct to commercial mobile operators looking to offload both voice and data traffic as the network comes with an ecosystem of testing and network management tools and handset capability.

There are other markets the company is exploring, such as helping new entrants come into the mobile broadband market and serving segments such as the military and smart grid. The military is interested in testing the technology, Rotondo said.

Therein lies the company's dilemma. It has technology that works, but it hasn't really found a solid market for it. The company may have an uphill battle going after the commercial mobile market given the fact that the technology must be incorporated into handsets either via an ASIC that isn't developed yet or some other, say, such as a concept of a device peel that includes the technology. Moreover, operators are skeptical of anything that runs contrary to how they operate networks.

At any rate, Mathias believes the company has a technology winner. "These are major-league pioneers who have built something that works well," he said. "The key is finding the right market and putting a business plan around that. It's going to be way more about marketing than technology. That is the fundamental issue."-Lynnette