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TenXc Applies Spread Spectrum Smarts

How many cell towers does it take to screw in new applications and keep up with user demands for media-rich services?

Not much more than the existing number, according to wireless solutions provider TenXc Wireless, which today unveiled the first in a series of cell site enhancement products offering a "drop and insert" answer to the riddle of cellular bandwidth.

The Ontario-based company's PCS Bi-Sector Array device makes use of intelligent radio frequency techniques to expand the capabilities and capacities of current wireless carrier systems to support emerging media-rich applications and broad-coverage technologies, such as WiMAX, said Ross Ernst, vice president of marketing.

The approach tackles cellular bandwidth and reliability problems from the interface link by optimizing spectrum and spectrum mass, he told internetnews.com.

As a result, upgrade deployment times are accomplished in hours instead of months, and the cost-savings can approach $250,000 per cell site, Ernst said.

The wireless operators and infrastructure owners, and the channel and product development partners –- who are TenXc's target customers –- can also save a bit of cash by eliminating the need to buy expensive spectrum licenses to expand their coverage.

Trials of the TenXc technology are scheduled to begin in the U.S. for the second quarter this year, although the company declined to say just who is involved in the testing.

The "make use of what you have" approach appeals to wireless carriers faced with the challenge of serving more and more users in tightly controlled spectrum geographies.

Roughly 85 percent of the wireless carriers and operators in North America and Latin America prefer expanding existing equipment rather than adding more cell towers, according to a TenXc survey.

User demands are also at an all-time high. At last count, there were more than 205 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., with about 25 million jumping on the wireless bandwagon between June 2004 and June 2005, according to the CTIA's semi-annual wireless survey.

Right now, there are more than 178,000 cell sites in the U.S.

"If you have a network and are looking to increase capacity, then this offers a path to maintain service quality and expand capabilities by using existing the cell-site infrastructure and deploying solutions to optimize that spectrum," said Thomas Ginter, vice president of product management.

TenXc's Bi-Sector Array approach relies on high-level "sectorization" to basically split a single communications beam into two separate streams that overlap and cover a wider area than traditional narrow beam transmissions.

As a result, a number of virtual antennae are created that can increase network capacity, improve quality of service and provide higher throughput for data services, said Ginter, claiming a 70 percent 80 percent improvement over traditional off-the-shelf solutions.

"You just can't throw additional antennae into the mix and hope for better performance," he points out.

TenXc's executives claim they have little competition in this space, although companies like Arraycomm have been involved in so-called smart antennae and multiple-input multiple-output technology for some time.

The company may also see some competition from firms involved in WiMAX, which is a standards-based wireless technology positioned as an alternative to cable and DSL broadband service, that may evolve into a $3 billion market.

Ernst said, however, that his technology plays well with WiMAX and faster architectures such as 3G and UTMS. TenXc is also a member of the WiMAX Forum, which promotes broadband wireless networks on the IEEE 802.16 standard.