Qualcomm aims at peer-to-peer with FlashLinq

It plans to test the technology, designed for licensed spectrum, with SK Telecom

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.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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