They’ve called it Weightless and it’s a new radio technology which the founders hope could prove to be bigger than Bluetooth. Well, given the people at Neul are mostly ex-CSR guys, you’d kind of expect that.
The problem is with pigeon-holing this stuff. It’s a wireless data network and it operates in free spectrum. Just like Bluetooth. But it’s wide range – like WiMAX. Only it’s built for the low data rates require for M2M [Machine-to-machine] applications.
Weightless relies entirely on a radio spectrum called ‘white space’. That’s the gaps in the TV broadcasting spectrum which nobody is using at the time. A concept originally pioneered by teletext.
The big difference is that – given a steep hill and a strong wind behind you – it would be possible to get 16 Mbit/s out of Weightless.
That’s not what it has really been designed for, though. The company is targetting M2M applications which require miniscule amounts of data. So that thousands of devices can be supported by a single base station.
And there’s the rub. Neul is banking on companies or organisations rolling out the necessary infrastructure to create a viable Weightless network. They reckon that with something like 6,000 base stations you could cover the whole of the UK. And hit 99 per cent of homes.
The bit where Neul got a bit hazy was with the chipsets needed to build a Weightless capablity into a communication device. And for M2M applications, battery life would have to be at least five years.
The company says the chipsets should cost $5 by 2012 and drop down to $1 by 2015. Given their Bluetooth heritage, such economies of scales are feasible.
What’s our take on Weightless? It could go either way. If the technology could get sufficient support, it became eponymous just like Bluetooth.
Or it could go the same way as a UK technology known as Messenger which required a national radio network which nobody used because BlackBerry (RIM) did it better using existing cellular infrastructure.
Our gut feeling is that Weightless is a goer. But maybe not in the form which Neul envisages. Plus we have no idea why they picked Weightless as its moniker. Perhaps it was the name of an ancient king of Cambridge?