CrunchGear’s Matt Hickey has been tracking rumors about a Zune phone for the last week. What began as a reliable tip is now a solid story: Last Monday Microsoft filed an application with the FCC for an enigmatic wireless device that could be used to talk over the Internet. The device is described as being used for “consumer broadband access and networking.” Microsoft goes on to say that the device would use OFDM as its communications protocol, not WiFi or Bluetooth. The standard OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) is a modulation scheme that is used widely in upcoming 4G standards of the future. Sprint/Nextel may be the carrier, since they are building out a 4G network that will work with the OFDM standard.
And the most interesting part of the story is that this device may be available in May, a month before the iPhone.
If this all fits together, it looks like MS is working on a mobile WiMax-enabled Zune Phone, which would have download speeds of up to 2Mbps, fast enough for the Xbox-to-Zune streaming we’ve heard about, and fast enough for just about anything else the Zune Phone might be used for.
The first real news is that we can expect to hear an announcement from Redmond about it before March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, at which time we should learn the name of the device. At the same time, we should also learn other launch specifics, and here’s where it gets incredibly juicy; our source says that, pending FCC approval, the specter-like Zune Phone will hit the streets sometime in May, a full month before the iPhone.