Motorola has unveiled its latest WiMAX hardware, aimed at business users who don't have high-speed Internet access.

The CPEi 100 customer premise equipment, which meets the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.16e standard, is scheduled to ship to service providers some time this year. The device is basically a gateway that sends and receives data over the 2.5GHz band and connects to a PC with an RJ-45 Ethernet port, said Ashish Dayama, senior marketing manager for global marketing and solutions at Motorola. Dayama would not say whether Motorola has any customers lined up.

"We think it will initially be hugely popular in the business market," Dayama said, because it lets users connect to the Internet from any location in range of their service provider's base station.

The CPEi 100 is part of Motorola's MOTOwi4 product group. Other products from the same group are being used by Primus TelecommunicationsCanada, a Toronto-based carrier, in its WiMAX trials in Toronto.

WiMAX, which stands for Wireless Interoperability for Microwave Access, is designed to allow transfer rates of up to 40Mbit/s per channel over a wide-area wireless network, with cell radii of three to 10km, though actual transfer rates for individual users are expected to be much lower.

WiMAX service should be attractive to small businesses, said Craig Mathias, principal of market research firm Farpoint Group.

"I don't think larger businesses will adopt it right away because they would have to buy subscriber units and all that," Mathias said."With larger enterprises, once they've done the evaluation, they understand security, administration, management, they've done the cost analysis and all of that, then they'd certainly consider WiMAX as well."

Matthias predicts other wireless equipment manufacturers will also release products similar to Motorola's CPEi 100.

"You'll see all kinds of those over the next few years, that model of acting as a gateway, something you can plug into a PC or into a router in place of a wireline connection," he said. "You'll see lots and lots of those."

But for businesses, an outdoor antenna is even better than an indoor gateway, said Monica Paolini, president of Senza Fili Consulting.

"If you can have an outdoor antenna, you get better performance," she said. "For some businesses it makes sense to spend an initial $200 more and have better performance all the time."

Paolini added WiMAX should be popular among businesses with offices in areas that aren't served by either cable, digital subscriber line (DSL) or fibre.

"If you think about the type of businesses for which fiber is not available or too expensive, often times that market segment is under-served," Paolini said. "If you have a wireless technology, it could be WiMAX or could be anything else, often times it's easier. The business users can just buy the modem and have it going. It's much faster, so in a lot of situations, that's a very big plus."

WiMAX transmits data without requiring clients to have line-of-sight with the base station. According to the WiMAX Forum, an industry consortium of nearly 500 vendors that tests and certifies hardware for interoperability, the non-line-of-sight feature means operators require fewer base stations, shorter towers and less time to install customer premise equipment.

"It gives you deep indoor penetration," Dayama said."When you put this device in your home or business, you don't need to put it near a window." But the deployment of WiMAX so far has been "spotty," Matthias said.

Although Sprint Nextel and Clearwire inked an agreement last July to build a WiMAX network in the US, the deal was called off in November.

"WiMAX is going to have a very slow rollout during this year and keep in mind that WiMAX is competitive with other wide area broadband offerings, primarily from the cellular carriers," Mathias said. "My feeling is WiMAX is going to do much better is less developed economies than in industrialised economies."