What Motorola did announce today is that they are planning to create a phone with iDEN and WiMAX. We have known about this phone for quite awhile, and will detail what it can do. Read More.
Harmony WiMAX is both a project and a grand view for Motorola to compete with Qualcomm. While Motorola does tap Qualcomm chipsets for its CDMA-based hardware, the two companies are bitter rivals in the 4G development race. Motorola backs WiMAX, while Qualcomm is assembling 802.20.
Sprint has delayed their commitment to WiMAX, which we previously reported they had selected for their 4G platform, in order to re-evaluate 802.20. Motorola Harmony WiMAX will persuade and cater to existing wireless providers.
Harmony devices are aimed at dual iDEN+WiMAX capacity. This will promote existing arrangements such as the frameworked sale of Sprint’s iDEN network to the federal government, as well as allow the government to have priority access to Sprint’s WIMAX network.
The success of this project is contingent on several factors. First, is the selection of WiMAX by Sprint as a 4G network solution. As Sprint is the only network in the world that this would cater to (by using both iDEN and WiMAX) this announcement does add fuel to the fire of Sprint selecting WiMAX. However, we must re-iterate, the rapid development path of 802.20 has caused them to previously retract from their initial decision (which we reported at the time). Next is a target market. With iDEN set to be phased out “after 2010” for consumers, Sprint will likely chose CDMA/4G handsets rather than mix iDEN technology with WiMAX in the consumer pool. This means that someone must pick up the iDEN national network, and the federal government is again the most likely candidate.
The Big, Qualcomm-Sized Problem
It is possible, if not likely, however, that Qualcomm will delay dual-network CDMA/WiMAX chipsets. It is not in Qualcomm’s interest to support WiMAX until network expansion of both 802.20 and WiMAX has been saturated. Hence, the ball is in Qualcomm’s court as to when CDMA and WiMAX will exist on a single chipset, and that will likely be a long wait. The resulting choices are painful for Sprint to select. Sprint must either pool device makers to put both a WiMAX chipset and a CDMA chipset onto devices, an expensive (and bulgy) proposition. The only other option is to hold onto iDEN and push 4G customers back to Nextel for WiMAX service.
And, Qualcomm wants it that way. Qualcomm wants Sprint to chose 802.20, along with Verizon and any other CDMA carrier.
The Trump Card
Harmony has a solution to this. Because Harmony already has WiMAX and iDEN running on a single device, adding CDMA to this process is not difficult for Motorola. Motorola can add CDMA into a Harmony WiMAX device. With Motorola already announcing dual iDEN/CDMA phones, it stands to prospect that they will be able to reduce the size of the device, and add WiMAX at the same time.
Harmony+CDMA phones won’t be the size of a SLVR, but they will be competitive, and deliver what Sprint needs, CDMA and WiMAX. Harmony clearly stands to appease both the private, and public sectors.
Harmony will have the capacity to make data calls on both iDEN, CDMA, WiDEN, and WiMAX, and Voice/PTT calls on iDEN, as well as transparent voice calls on the WiMAX network. Both iDEN Voice/PTT and WiMAX VoIP will carry heavy encryption protocols, above and beyond the existing iDEN network encryption. These upgrades will likely require upgrades to the iDEN core network. But, such changes will target the public sector’s security demands for such a voice platform.
Details on the final form of Harmony devices are not clear, as the device(s) are in an active state of development. It is important to note that Moto Harmony WiMAX is both network and device technology, and that the Harmony line of phones will likely create a range of devices almost as broad as the existing Harmony iDEN-only lineup. The Harmony team is currently aiming for a late 2007 release, but it will most likely reach the hands of users in 2008, unless network deployment is rapidly increased on (the) potential network provider(s).