Motorola’s Wireless Broadband Strategy

A team of executives from Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola visited the ISP-Planet offices to explain Motorola’s MOTOwi4 plan for wireless broadband services.

The team included Jim Welch, former CEO and president of Wireless Valley, an RF mapping company acquired by Motorola in 2004 (Welch is now vice president in charge of the company’s wireless broadband product portfolio strategy); and Phil Bolt, CEO of Asburton, UK-based backhaul radio maker Orthogon Systems, acquired by Motorola earlier this year (Bolt is now Motorola’s general manager of wireless backhaul solutions and is still based in Ashburton, one of the nicest towns in England, and says he’s added office space to accommodate growth).

Two executives from Motorola’s own PR group completed the team: Dava Curtin, Motorola director of marketing; and Kathi Haas, Motorola senior PR manager for networks.

“So you’re here to explain how Orthogon and Canopy will work together,” we asked.


Actually, Welch explained, the company’s wireless broadband strategy is bigger than that. In addition to Canopy for last mile and Orthogon for backhaul, the MOTOwi4 strategy incorporates mesh networking technology from Mesh Networks, company acquired by Motorola two years ago. WiMAX and broadband over power line (BPL) technologies play important roles too. In the future, the company could incorporate its recent Symbol buy, but we explained that RFID is not currently an issue for ISPs.

The company sees WiMAX and the rest of its portfolio of wireless broadband solutions as useful for urban and dense deployments in both developed and emerging markets. BPL is useful for in-building deployments, such as hotels and apartment buildings (as in this recent but otherwise unrelated announcement from power company subsidiary First Communications).

Welch said that the mesh networking technology from Mesh Networks was designed for first responders and the military. It’s robust and scalable, and maintain connectivity at even when vehicles are traveling at 50 mph. The company says it has extended is mesh portfolio to include 802.11 support over multiple frequencies.

Bolt said that Orthogon, Motorola’s backhaul solutions division, is now working on radios for recently available spectrum, such as 5.4 GHz. Europe and the U.S. have published rules for avoiding interfering with military radar, he said, and the backhaul solutions division can develop algorithms based on the rules. Whereas at present, radios can operate at only 100 mW EIRP, they can run up to 1 W EIRP if they avoid interfering with radar, making new applications possible.


Bolt and Welch said that municipalities are starting to realize that they can deploy two networks at once: a best effort network for free for residents, and a high availability network for government and first responders. Bolt pointed out that RF planning and deploying radios can be as expensive as buying the radios, so if you want two networks, it’s cheaper to deploy both at the same time.

We asked whether there was any channel conflict between the IP strategy of the broadband wireless division and Motorola’s well-known cellular customers. “There’s room for both,” Welch said. “WiMAX is 4G.”

Haas added that WiMAX and 3G are complementary technologies and the entire MOTOwi4 portfolio has solutions that can meet a variety of needs from service providers to enterprise.

Welch said that government agencies are also adopting wireless broadband, especially in the 4.9 GHz band reserved for first responders. We had heard on our ISP-Wireless list that equipment for this band is relatively expensive because it lacks the volume demand of 2.4 GHz and UNII equipment. Bolt said that this is true to some extent, but that the 4.9 GHz equipment tends to be more specialized, built to stricter standards, so the two cannot be fairly compared.

Bolt said that being part of Motorola has given him access to customers who never talked to Orthogon but communicate regularly with Motorola. He cited several examples. The radios are performing edge trunking tasks for cellular networks. They are deployed in 6 GHz utility networks where they provide a 5.8 GHz backup to aging equipment and allow the utilities to perform maintenance, repairs, and upgrades without downtime.

Perhaps the most exotic deployment is on a buoy over Aquarius, the only undersea laboratory run by the U.S. government’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, a deployment that Motorola touts in detail in a case study [.pdf].

The case study reports:

The broadband wireless link has maintained carrier-grade (99.999 percent) availability through rough 6 foot (2 meter) swells as well as Hurricane Jeanne off the Florida coast. During the hurricane, the PTP 400 Series link not only maintained the connection without dropping a packet, but its durable antennas remained intact as well.

Bolt says that the backhaul equipment, with its interference mitigation technology (for more on the technology, see our article, Building Big, Invisible Bridges), is able to sustain links over water and prairie land where RF, even with LOS, is subject to interference from ground reflections. “Our goal is to be a layer 2 link that you can deploy and forget,” he says.

MOTOwi4 is a big portfolio of wireless broadband solutions for a big company. Its technologies will be deployed to connect people and things on railroads and utilities, schools and hospitals, and throughout major cities. It will support humanitarian efforts and it will be deployed in areas that have never had a copper-based telephone infrastructure. It’s a global strategy.

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