Siemens is adding another broadband technology to its growing high-speed wireless portfolio: Flash OFDM. The German giant will integrate the Wi-Max rival into its new broadband access systems early in 2005 but continue to support Wi-Max.

Flash OFDM, a fast cellular broadband technology that can give a wireless broadband link to homes, offices or mobile PCs. It promises to allow users travelling at 250 km/hour to download data at speeds up to 1.5Mbit/s or upload at speeds up to 500Kbit/s. Developed by Flarion Technologies, the impressive acronym stands for Fast Low-latency Access with Seamless Hand-off on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing. Phew.

The Flash OFDM spec is a pre-standard implementation of the IEEE 802.20 wireless broadband standard, that could compete with the Wi-Max 802.16 standard (see our recent story for the machinations).

Siemens will offer base stations, modems and PC cards based on Flash OFDM technology in the second quarter of 2005, according to Siemens spokeswoman Marion Bludszuweit. The German company sees a market for the new broadband technology in Eastern Europe, where numerous operators have capacity in the 450MHz frequency band, she said.

Whether a market for the technology will emerge in Western Europe remains to be seen, however. For one, the 450MHz band isn't as available in the western region of Europe as it is in the eastern part. For another, although Flarion's technology can operate in the same radio spectrum and use the same antennas as Europe's 3G high-speed mobile systems, spectrum licences currently prohibit the use of 3G radio waves by alternative technologies.

Last month, T-Mobile, one of Europe's largest mobile operators and providers of new 3G services, began testing Flash OFDM technology in The Hague, Netherlands. Vodafone is planning a field test in Tokyo before the end of the year. Nextel became the first US company to test the broadband wireless technology several months ago.

In addition to Flash OFDM, Siemens plans next year to offer wireless broadband access systems based on Wi-Max (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) and HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) technologies, according to Bludszuweit.

Wi-Max technology, based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, can extend the reach of wireless broadband over longer distances and at higher speeds than current Wi-Fi systems. Its access range is up to around 48 km, compared to Wi-Fi's 100m. It supports data transmission speeds up to 70Mbit/s. Intel has launched Wi-Max chips and unveiled its plans for the future, while all the major networking companies have joined the Wi-Max Forum.

HSDPA technology, on the other hand, is an enhancement to 3G cellular systems. Aimed at heavy data users, the technology is designed to boost 3G data speeds up to 3Mbit/s for downlink connections and 384Kbit/s for uplink connections, according to Bludszuweit. It offers a peak downlink speed of 14.4Mbit/s.

Siemens has no current plans to integrate all three technologies into one PC card but will offer each separately, Bludszuweit said.