xG Technology, whose controversial low-power xMax wireless technology was demonstrated in November, has announced plans for a consumer handset by the end of the year.

“In the US, we plan to utilise a grassroots marketing campaign to roll xMax out on a viral basis,’ said xG CEO Rick Mooers. The handset will enable low-cost VoIP providers, similar to the garage-based ISPs of the 1990s, he explained. To get things going and provide something useful before the xMax base-stations appear, the handset will also operate pver Wi-Fi and have an Ethernet socket, said the company.

xMax uses lower power, and can operate in lower-frequency spectrum than other radio technologies such as WiMax, according to the company, which has so far given partial explanations of how it works. The technology uses "single-cycle modulation"; it also uses a narrowband timing signal to synchronise and decode a wide-band low-power signal similar to that used in ultra-wideband. In February , xMax' inventor, Joe Bobier promised products by June.

It now seems that an enterprise version of the VoIP handset will appear in the summer, with a consumer version to follow by the end of the year.

The technology can send 40Mbit/s of data over 15 miles, using less than 1W of power, xG claims, and has been certified to meet FCC radio emissions limits. This means that small independent operators will be able to set up very cheap base stations, and provide connection to the Internet for VoIP services, the company promises. "Small companies, institutions, and communities can deploy wireless VOIP networks for thousands rather than millions of dollars," says the release.

The handsets and base stations will be made by contract manufacturers. Although the technology only has approval in the US, he said it might be rolled out elsewhere first: “We’re a US company and would prefer to deploy the first systems here but there has been significant international interest and it may be more prudent to first enter the marketplace in another country.”