Flarion’s Finning Smile

Just when you think its all over for Flarion, the New Jersey company with a seriously cool and efficient next generation wireless technology, it manages to pull a proverbial rabbit out of its magical hat. The company has had its share of tough breaks. It was close to snagging Nextel as a partner for next generation wireless broadband network, and Sprint swooped in, merger with Nextel and threw a bucket of ice cold water on its plans. Like pretty much everyone else in the wireless space, it has had to walk away with a bloody nose after tussling with Qualcomm. I talked to the executives at the company right after Sextel merger was announced, and they promised they will be back. If not in the US, then overseas!

And they kept their word. They signed an OEM deal with Siemens, which got them a trial with T-Mobile in The Czech Republic. That trial has gone off well. And today they announced that the Government of Finland has granted an operating license to build a Flash-OFDM network.

Digita Oy, will build the network on the 450 MHz band. Alternative technology option was CDMA. Digita is committed to build the network in three stages. The first stage includes sparsely populated areas, such as Lapland and Eastern Finland, the archipelago and coastal areas. That will be completed in September 2006. By 2009, the entire country would be blanketed.

The frequency was made available after the spectrum was left unused by Sonera. There were seven groups in the running, and two had proposed CDMA technology. Rest all had proposed Flash-OFDM based networks. Had CDMA won, it would have meant further tightening of Qualcomms grip on the wireless future. The reason this is an important win is because other countries in Europe – Austria, Ireland, Britain and France – are going to make450 MHz licenses available. Germany has already awarded two licenses.

Finland was the first country to adopt GSM standard, and soon rest of Europe followed. This could be the break Flarion is looking for, to make one of the most stunning comebacks in the wireless business. My gut feeling is that if Flarion wins in a couple of other different countries, we could expect one of the two companies – Ericsson or Nokia stepping up, and make an audacious offer to buy this little start-up.

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