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Missing (strangely) from this week's Wireless Event in London's Olympia exhibition centre will be Picochip, which is preparing to astonish the world with a home 3G base station. But corporate versions will be on show, and the news will be a big blow to Wi-Fi fans.

BT has announced its "convergence" plans for "son of Fusion", which was an experiment using Bluetooth as a local wireless system to boost coverage.

The new BT plan was revealed by Steve Evans, BT's wireless broadband chief, who told Communications News: "We are planning a major initiative in the larger enterprise space. Commercial launch will be in early 2007, with beta customers towards the back end of this year."

But the problem with Wi-Fi in a cellphone is a simple one: it's a big battery-killer and makes for bigger, clunkier phones. It's also more costly to put both Wi-Fi and 3G radios in a device - so phone operators and makers are getting together to try to find a better solution - and they think picocell WCDMA is the answer.

At Olympia this week, Zinwave will be touting a new product which takes 3G radio into the office. Details aren't available till Wednesday, but the mailshot sent out to prospective customers is intriguing:

  • First to enable true in-building broadband wireless convergence - 2G, 3G, TETRA and Wi-Fi.
  • Exploits full capability of multi-mode and single mode fibre using patented technology.
  • Extends multi-mode cabling reach to at least 550 metres for wireless applications 2.5GHz and beyond.
  • Enables true centralised network architecture - greater control, flexibility and security.

Picochip, however, won't show its hand till later this year, and when it does, it will be as the hand inside the glove puppet, as various other people launch home masts. These will be in every sense ordinary 3G phone systems - but without the drawback of having to share them with other users. "The problem with a 3G signal is that it doesn't go through walls well. That's a big disadvantage if you're inside trying to pick up a signal outside," Picochip sales boss Rupert Baines said. "But if the transmitter is inside it's an advantage; it means you don't have to share your bandwidth with anybody else." The idea will be to plug the mini-mast into your home broadband and use it instead of Wi-Fi in the house (and garden), with the mobile networks sponsoring the cost of the installation. Expect rollout towards the end of this year. Zinwave's product will ship in weeks, on the back of its existing fibre broadband technology.

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