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Sun 1 Apr 2007 05:39 PM

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Talking up WiMax

Siemens has recently launched a slew of new products, including VoIP phones for the home, and WiMax modems. NME asks what implication this will have in the business world.

Technology trickle-down is nothing new, but if recent launches from Siemens are any guide, the process which sees high-end enterprise systems move down to SMB and even consumer level is accelerating.

Siemens has refreshed its range of personal and SMB-focused telecoms and home networking products, including WiMax modems and highly-integrated VoIP phone systems. While not all of the new product lines will be available in the Middle East immediately (or until a legal shift in some regional countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in the case of VoIP phones), Siemens does expect to capture the technological high ground.

A crucial part of the vendor's marketing strategy for its new VoIP phones is to provide IP calling functionality more or less out of the box. The phones are able to connect with no setting changes to Siemens' own VoIP service Gigaset.net, which allows users of Siemens phones to call each other for free.

For SMBs, this functionality removes the often complex and variable process of setting up a VoIP system, including signing up with a service provider and registering a large number of often unwieldy settings. Siemens envisions these phones as being bundled with operators' packages - in its native Germany, Siemens has already struck deals with a number of service and content providers, and is planning to roll this out around the world.

On the WiMax side, the German tech giant has released updated versions of its WiMax modems. These are designed as end-point devices for home and business users, and Siemens says it expects these to be distributed almost exclusively by WiMax SPs.

In contrast to the often high-income and aspirational phone systems it announced, Siemens has seen its WiMax ranges take off in regions such as Latin America and North Africa, where the growth has been exponential, according to Dr Marc Achhammer, senior vice president and head of WiMax at Siemens Home and Office Communication Devices.

"A series of orders, for example from Orbitel in Colombia and Algérie Telecom in Algeria, confirms our solution's attractiveness," says Achhammer. "WiMax offers significant potential for service providers to develop either a supplementary or - in more developed areas - a complementary broadband offering for their customers."

Much of the focus with WiMax has revolved around enterprise mobility, but lines coming out of Siemens - and other vendors - demonstrates that service providers are also able to tap successfully into SMB and consumer markets.

For said SMBs - and consumers - it is also now clear that there are or will be options when it comes to choosing a broadband service, rather than relying on fixed line services. In regions such as the Middle East, this flexibility is important, as it tackles the issues around a lack of wired infrastructure, which is slow and expensive for telcos to remedy.

Siemens' marketing is heavily aspirational and human - it will be interesting to see how the fairly impersonal and technical WiMax systems succeed in this context.

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