Qualcomm plans to demonstrate a peer-to-peer wireless technology that will let devices form "neighborhood-area networks" at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.
The technology, called FlashLinq, works without intermediate infrastructure but will use licensed spectrum, Qualcomm said in a press release on Tuesday. It could complement cellular networks for applications such as local advertising, social networking and machine-to-machine networks, Qualcomm said. The company plans to trial FlashLinq in South Korea with carrier SK Telecom to explore possible commercial uses of the technology.
A growing number of wireless devices use peer-to-peer technologies for some applications, partly to open up the choice of where and when to communicate between devices. The Wi-Fi Alliance now has a peer-to-peer standard, called Wi-Fi Direct, which is slowly working its way into handsets, PCs and home electronics. But some new devices, such as a Samsung camera that can use a mobile phone for its viewfinder, and an Eye-Fi storage card that sends images straight to a phone for uploading, use Wi-Fi through proprietary software, at least for now.
FlashLinq differs from those approaches in that it doesn't use the well-known unlicensed frequency bands of Wi-Fi. Because it's designed for licensed bands, FlashLinq probably would depend on frequencies licensed by a mobile operator or another large entity, unless there were bands set aside in a particular region for peer-to-peer wireless links.
The fledgling system is based on a form of OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing Access), the same basic technology used in WiMax and LTE (Long-Term Evolution) wireless networks, according to Qualcomm. With FlashLinq, devices can discover each other at a distance as long as a kilometer and connect at "broadband speeds," the company said. The devices could continually connect and disconnect from one another in a "neighborhood-area network," Qualcomm said.
Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
It's possible to have wireless networking built around client devices with no intermediate infrastructure, such as in a mesh, and that could save a lot of money, according to Farpoint Group analyst Craig Mathias. There would be no cost for towers, real estate or base-station maintenance, and the capacity of the network would expand as users gathered in particular areas, he said. He praised Qualcomm for trying new things.
"It's a sign, at the very least, that the vibrancy of the wireless industry is still there," Mathias said.