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A company called Golden Wireless is offering broadband wireless in St. Petersburg, Russia: The network uses base stations from AirSpan that are based on CDMA and use the 3.5 GHz band. Customers throughout St. Petersburg can get as many as four phone lines and data throughput as fast as 2 MBps.
ISP AfriConnect is offering a fixed broadband wireless service in Zambia: The ISP is using equipment from NextNet in the licensed 2.6 GHz band. Initially, the offering seems to be attractive to developmental groups in Zambia. I’d go a step further than Om Malik and say that in fact broadband wireless is rather quickly making its way into underdeveloped regions. The technology is being used around the globe in places like Zambia that have poor or non-existent telecom infrastructure but can benefit from connectivity. It’s been happening for years and it seems to me that announcements of launches like this one are becoming more frequent as the available equipment becomes mature and the price for it drops.
A couple of Trump buildings in New York City are being connected via wireless links that operate in a very high frequency: Microwave Satellite Technologies is operating the network, which is built using gear from GigaBeam that operates in the 71 GHz to 76 GHz band and the 81 GHz to 86 GHz band. The network will deliver voice, video, and data to residents in the buildings. My initial reaction to a system that operates in those high spectrum bands is that the range would have to be incredibly short, but GigaBeam claims in its Web site that the links can reach a mile.
U.S. fixed wireless operator airBand acquired Accelacom: The acquisition offers airBand coverage of Baltimore. I’m a bit curious about what metric airBand uses to claim that it is the largest fixed wireless company in the U.S. It could be true but while the company Web site notes that it serves 28 markets, it seems to only list Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Phoenix. The other 24 could be small communities around those metropolitan areas.
In the press release, airBand notes that it plans to make additional acquisitions in the future with the intent of expanding its coverage. airBand does boast investments from venture capital firms.
A study from Unstrung basically reports that mesh is finally up to snuff: This report may be most valuable for a chart that lists vendors that are making mesh gear and notes which markets each one focuses on. But it does seem that there have been an increasing number of mesh deployments which would indicate that the technology is becoming more reliable and useful.
Broadband wireless vendor Airspan said it is acquiring a voice over IP company: Airspan is acquiring ArelNet for $8.7 million. Airspan recently introduced a product line that it hopes will pass the WiMax standardization process. This acquisition will allow Airspan to support voice services on its networks.
Update: This announcement was actually first made in December, when the companies signed a “letter of intent” for Airspan to make the purchase. Today, the companies signed a “definitive purchase agreement” which is still subject to the usual approvals.
SBC said it will deploy a mesh network for the University of Arkansas: Nortel will be the vendor. I would guess that Nortel is reselling someone else’s mesh equipment for the project because I don’t think Nortel has its own mesh solution.
This deployment is likely part of a push that SBC announced in 2003 to offer managed Wi-Fi services to schools and hospitals. I haven’t heard a lot about deals that SBC has won in the space since that announcement.
Universities have also been heavily targeted by the WLAN switch vendors. One of the major differences to a school between choosing an operator like SBC to deploy the network and going with a WLAN switch provider is that SBC will maintain the network on an ongoing basis. Usually the switch maker deploys the network or has an integrator build it and then the university maintains it on an ongoing basis.
RoamAD said it is licensing its software but won’t sell hardware any more: RoamAD’s software enables mesh Wi-Fi networks. Customers can either buy access points from companies that already make them according to RoamAD’s reference design or they can cobble together their own access points based on RoamAD direction using off-the-shelf radios.
This kind of change is an indication of the maturity of the market. Wi-Fi hardware is becoming so cheaply available that margins are slim for specialty vendors so they are concentrating on software that can give them an edge over other vendors.
RoamAD plans to migrate to support WiMax.
Portland was on the very leading edge of offering public hotspots and now it seems the city is continuing that trend: Portland is soon to put out a request for proposals for a citywide wireless broadband network that will likely employ both Wi-Fi and WiMax. Intel is involved in the project. The network will be used by city and state employees as well as anyone else who wants to use it.
Egyptian Internet Services is expanding its broadband wireless coverage in Illinois: The high-speed Internet access provider already serves three communities in Illinois and plans to use radios from WaveRider to reach more customers. The operator will also expand coverage to a fourth city. Most of its customers have no alternative broadband option.
MegaBroadband launched a portable broadband wireless service in Massachusetts: The network was built using equipment from Navini and it operates in the 2.3 GHz frequency, also known as the wireless communications service (WCS) band. The network will initially support 3,000 users. Navini says it has an upgrade path to the mobile WiMax standard, though the standard hasn’t yet been solidified.
This press release includes a reference to a key date. The FCC requires WCS spectrum owners to deploy networks using the spectrum by mid-2007. As that date looms, I’d expect to see an increasing number of deployments or sales of the spectrum. However, traditionally companies have found ways to either push back such deadlines or deploy the minimum amount of network that is required.
One Vonage customer says that Clearwire is blocking the voice over IP service: This is clearly a defensive move by Clearwire but surely won’t do much as far as endearing itself to customers. Clearwire recently said that Bell Canada would supply voice services to Clearwire broadband wireless customers. Apparently Clearwire wants to ensure that its customers that want voice services buy the service from Clearwire and no one else. While it’s understandable, it won’t help Clearwire to promote its image as a champion of competitive providers.
The FCC recently ruled that Madison River Communications, a telephone and DSL provider, had to stop blocking Vonage and pay a fine for doing so previously. But Mobile Pipeline reports that it’s not clear if the FCC could make a similar ruling against Clearwire because Clearwire isn’t a local telephone company.
Intel has built a network in warehouses used by the U.K.’s National Museum of Science and Industry: Base stations based on WiMax have been deployed on the top of seven hangers used by the museum. Inside the hangers, Wi-Fi access points distribute bandwidth to museum workers, who use tablet PCs inside the warehouses.
Three locations are trialing Firetide’s mesh platforms: Culver City, Calif. is using the network for Wi-Fi access and video surveillance in offices, St. Augustine College in North Carolina is extending its network, and the State Fair of Texas is using the network for outdoor video surveillance. DailyWireless looks at some of the other mesh networking systems that are out there. Mesh is maturing and may be improving, judging from the recent buzz around the concept.
Cable companies are turning to wireless to reach additional customers: Cable One is a cable operator that is using a DOCSIS-based wireless solution to extend its coverage. DOCSIS is a cable standard. Time Warner and Charter Cable have a slightly different take. While Cable One is using wireless to reach customers that it can’t get to using wires, Time Warner and Charter Cable are building Wi-Fi hotspots as an additional access service for customers. I believe that Vyyo at least once based some of its wireless radios on DOCSIS, though not necessarily to in an effort at targeting cable operators.
Irish Broadband plans to further extend its network: The operator already covers a number of cities in Ireland and with this recent announcement plans to reach “near nationwide coverage” by the end of this year. Irish Broadband uses both unlicensed and the licensed 3.5 GHz spectrum. In the licensed band, it is deploying Alvarion’s equipment that aims to be WiMax compliant.
If Irish Broadband can offer decent access prices, it stands to be targeting an ideal market. A recent report placed Ireland as 27th out of 30 in value for money for broadband access. In other words, only three other countries had higher prices for what you get. If Irish Broadband can slip in under that cost, it stands to do well.
The company also stands to benefit from self-installable CPEs. I was unable to subscribe to Irish Broadband in my apartment in Dublin because the building management wouldn’t allow an external antenna to be mounted on the building. I suspect my building is not unique in that rule.
Proxim is offering a WISP starter kit: The package includes a Proxim base station with antenna plus six subscriber units. The platform can be migrated to WiMax.
The DailyWireless bit on the offering includes a great profile of a WISP in Michigan that currently uses the Proxim gear. The operator serves the public schools and offers half-price dial-up to families with school kids, and then donates 10 percent of the revenue to the schools.
DailyWireless also refers to an interesting statistic that shows the number of WISPs based in the U.S. has grown from 300 in 1998 to almost 8,500 in 2004. While I’m sure some of these WISPs compete head-to-head with the incumbent wireline telcos, I would wager that the majority of them serve communities that have no other broadband option. I suggest that the increase in number of WISPs indicates how poorly the telcos are serving communities outside of the big cities.
US Wireless Online, a wireless ISP, is launching a voice service: The offering is initially available in Columbus, Ohio, and will later become available in the rest of US Wireless Online’s 11-state territory. Voice has increasingly been a central topic in the WiMax market. Voice can be a really critical offering for wireless operators because it means that they can serve as a one stop shop for businesses which can order all their voice and data services from a single source. That edge may be growing increasingly important as it becomes clear that the initial WiMax equipment won’t be as low-cost as initially hoped. That means the operators won’t be able to so severely undercut their wireline competitors so perhaps services like voice will offer them an extra tool for attracting customers.
The FCC last week released some technical details of the rules around licenses for the 3650 MHz band: The FCC will require licensees to avoid interfering with other licensees. At least some folks who are reading the FCC’s order believe that the FCC will step in if licensees aren’t cooperating with each other. In an effort to allow for higher power limits, as requested by some WISPs, the FCC is requiring contention-based protocols to avoid interference. Fixed base stations can operate at a peak of 25 watts per 25 MHz bandwidth.
There was some concern that there might be some sort of “first in” consideration that allowed the first users of the spectrum more rights than subsequent users. Community networkers were concerned that some big operators might rush to the market in an effort to essentially corner the spectrum. However, at first glance at least, it appears that the first users won’t be given any special considerations.
A new report from Pyramid Research points out some of the hurdles facing the WiMax market: There has been a lot of talk recently about a couple of aspects that are likely to slow down the potential of WiMax. One is the fact that WiMax will operate in multiple frequency bands. That is one major difference between the way that WiMax and Wi-Fi were developed. Wi-Fi uses the same frequency virtually everywhere, which helped drive down manufacturing costs and gave vendors a global market. WiMax loses that advantage.
There has also been a lot of talk recently about how chips and platforms are expected to support different or proprietary features. That complicates deployment because it may require operators to match customer premise equipment with base stations from the same manufacturer.
These complications lead to higher costs for potential WiMax users and that isn’t good news for the market. I spoke to a hotspot operator recently who told me that his company has looked into using WiMax to backhaul the hotspots. So far, however, it doesn’t prove to be cost effective. When he looked at the price of the base stations combined with the cost of buying and installing the CPEs plus the cost of finding and leasing a location for the base station, it didn’t make sense for him compared to leasing backhaul lines from the local phone company. Perhaps over the very long term it would make sense, but it would also require the operator to have the capital to fund the initial WiMax investment. Many of the small or medium-sized hotspot operators would likely struggle with coming up with that kind of capital. Plus, the ongoing site leasing cost means that WiMax isn’t necessarily a one-off investment.
Motorola is introducing a mesh networking platform designed mainly for municipalities: Each access point in the network can include four radios; two Wi-Fi radios operating in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz band and two of Motorola’s Mesh Enabled Architecture mobile broadband radios that operate in the licensed 4.9 GHz band. The idea is that cities could deploy such networks to offer Wi-Fi access to residents but over totally separate radios offer a mobile network to public safety organizations. The press release notes the danger with trying to share networks between public safety and the public because the public might use up all the bandwidth. That’s not quite a valid argument because there are solutions out there that can offer public safety users priority. Nonetheless, having totally separate radios that operate on different frequencies is a sure way of separating traffic and ensuring that bandwidth is available for public safety users.
One of the most interesting aspects of this network is that the public safety radio users can use a capability that turns each user radio into a router/repeater. A user’s traffic can hop along other users’ radios to reach the access point. This concept has been discussed before but I haven’t seen talk of actual deployments. One of the problems with such concepts historically is what happens if no other user is nearby to carry your traffic back to the network. But presumably in this type of deployment a municipality could choose to deploy access points densely enough to ensure that users would be in reach.
Curiously, the press release is not posted on Motorola’s Web site and a search on the site for Motomesh, the name of the platform, comes up dry.
The first version of WiMax gear isn’t even available yet but many operators and vendors are focusing on mobile WiMax: This DailyWireless item looks at the decision facing operators as they consider whether to deploy the fixed version or wait for the mobile version. What may become crucial is the ability to upgrade the first generation of WiMax to the mobile version. Initially, most people said that would be impossible. Recently, chip makers including picoChip and Sequans have been taking about the ability for their chips to be upgraded to mobile WiMax. I suspect that mobile WiMax is too uncertain yet to be making those kinds of promises but I suppose it’s possible.
AT&T said it will launch a broadband wireless trial in May in Middletown, New Jersey: This article doesn’t include which vendor or vendors AT&T has chosen for the trial but the equipment used will be from a vendor aiming for WiMax compliance. AT&T is looking into replacing data lines that AT&T currently leases from local phone companies to serve business customers.
Late last year AT&T said it pays $8.5 billion to other phone companies to access their networks. Building its own network using WiMax would be a one time hit that could save the company a bundle over time.
BelAir said that later this year it will start offering its mesh platform that includes backhaul radios based on WiMax: The system will use Wi-Fi to distribute coverage and WiMax to backhaul the access. If WiMax does become built into mobile clients, BelAir will develop its system to accommodate for WiMax access radios. The press release also says that the platform will also support cellular, but there isn’t much detail about which cellular technologies exactly it would support.
I spoke with an executive from Alcatel recently for a story I wrote for Wireless Week about HSDPA and learned that Alcatel will sell base stations that can support GSM, EDGE, UMTS, HSDPA, and WiMax.
BelAir also said that it joined the WiMax Forum. The company has hinted historically that it would integrate WiMax into its platform if it seemed to make sense.
Alvarion, Airspan and Redline say they’ve started testing interoperability among their base station and CPE products: This type of activity was expected prior to the official certification program conducted by the WiMax Forum, scheduled to start in July. The independent testing gives vendors a better chance of quickly getting through the official certification process.
Nortel, a WiMax Forum member, said it will develop mobile WiMax products with LG Electronics: Nortel has been a member of the forum for a while but hasn’t offered many details about its WiMax plans, until now. Like some other cellular vendors, Nortel seems to be skipping the fixed version of WiMax in favor of the next generation mobile version. Alcatel, which resells broadband wireless equipment from Alvarion, also recently said it is working on its own version of the mobile WiMax standard.
Nortel joins most of the other cellular equipment vendors in announcing a WiMax plan. Siemens also recently said it would develop its own WiMax solution. Lucent is reselling Alvarion gear and Motorola will upgrade Canopy to comply with WiMax. Nokia and Ericsson are members of the WiMax Forum but I don’t believe either has announced their own WiMax development initiatives or plans to resell equipment from an existing vendor.
Yozan will build a broadband wireless network covering all of Tokyo: Airspan will supply the network, using its newly-announced equipment that is based on WiMax and includes a self-installable CPE. This is quite an ambitious undertaking, with plans initially to cover the city using 600 cells. Ultimately the network will cover the greater metropolitan area and eight surrounding prefectures.
This announcement will likely create a bit of a buzz for a number of reasons. Tokyo, obviously, is a huge, dense city so this is quite an ambitious undertaking and could be a great proving ground for WiMax. But also, it’s likely to receive additional attention by the mere fact that it’s being announced so close to the certification of WiMax gear. Commercial rollout of the network is expected in the fourth quarter, which means there’s a chance that the Airspan gear will actually be certified WiMax by that time. That makes Tokyo one of the biggest cities in the world to get one of the first true WiMax networks throughout the city.
Unstrung reports that Alcatel may be on the verge of signing a licensing agreement with IPWireless: Alcatel already buys and integrates IPWireless equipment. The move would fit with what some people see is a shift at IPWireless toward trying to earn most of its revenue from its intellectual property rather than equipment sales.
Alcatel seems to be pursuing a wide range of future wireless technologies. In addition to the standard cellular upgrades, it is also working on WiMax products, both through an OEM agreement with Alvarion and a development deal for 802.16e gear with Intel. A potential deal to license IPWireless’ gear may be Alcatel’s attempt to cover all the bases.
The FCC is using a hybrid of licensed, unlicensed, and grandfathered-use rules to coordinate the band (PDF): An unlimited numbers of licenses will be granted, but every base station must be registered. In certain geographic areas, there will be limits for Fixed Satellite Service and “Federal Government stations” that will create some restrictions. Licenses will be granted for 10 years, work nationwide, and be freely assignable. This last part is important because there will obviously be some cost in obtaining a license, and even though an unlimited number of licenses will be granted, it’s easier when you sell or buy a company to have existing licenses be part of those deals. Licensing terms and filing information will be announced in the future.
Airspan Networks is launching a line of products aiming to be WiMax compliant, including a self-installable customer unit: The company is claiming that this is the first self-installable WiMax product. Because the CPE is based on Intel’s “Rosedale” chip, it will interoperate with any WiMax-certified base station. That’s an important capability because even though interoperability is one of the main reasons to create a standard, many vendors have said that their first generation of WiMax CPEs will only operate with their base stations.
The self-installable component is also quite important because the expense of truck rolls required to install customer equipment has historically been blamed for failures in developing broadband wireless markets.
Airspan also says that these base stations will be upgradeable to the future mobile WiMax standard. I’ve been hearing that from some other vendors but I’m a bit dubious. The 802.16e standard is so far from completion that I would find it difficult to be able to ensure forward compatibility. But I may have to eat my words in a couple of years.
Bentley College, a school in Massachusetts, lost all Internet connectivity on campus when a Level 3 router failed: Because the outage happened on a Saturday, Level 3 said it wouldn’t be able to fix the problem until Tuesday. But, the school had a contingency plan which enabled administrators to switch to TowerStream for connectivity by Saturday evening.
It’s this kind of service that will help the broadband wireless operators win some business. They have an advantage because they can typically hook up new customers far faster than the telcos. If they can go the extra mile to respond to these types of problems quicker, they’ll look that much more attractive.
Broadband Wireless Business ran a long piece looking at Barrett Xplore’s aspirations in Canada: The company is solely using Motorola’s Canopy line to serve customers across the country. One key to the Canopy line, which is pointed out in this article, is that future Canopy APs will be based on WiMax but they’ll still work with the customer equipment that is being sold today. That’s likely an important capability for operators that are looking to deploy now.
Bell Canada is investing $100 million in Clearwire and will also deliver voice over IP services to Clearwire: Bell Canada is also to become a shareholder in NR Communications, a partner in Inukshuk, a partnership that is deploying broadband wireless services in Canada. Bell Canada will be Clearwire’s preferred voice over IP supplier around the globe. While Clearwire hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with where else it has licenses beyond the United States, the company has an operation in Ireland and is rumored to have licenses in Denmark, Bulgaria, and Belgium.
This is a coup for Bell Canada, especially if Clearwire succeeds in building networks around the globe. This also tips Clearwire’s hand a bit as it makes it clear that the company is after voice services.
Techdirt points to some stretching of reality done by Intel’s Sean Maloney at the recent Intel’s Developers Forum: Oddly, Maloney seems to have been advocating the use of a single antenna to cover an entire city. The last time operators tried to roll out network sin the MMDS spectrum it became clear that even in the flattest of environments, customers would eat up the available bandwidth from a single base station pretty quickly. He is also quoted as saying that coverage is far more important than bandwidth. If that were true, we’d have no need for WiMax because we’d just use GPRS.
Maloney is also cited as saying that cell phones include Wi-Fi by default these days. While several phone manufacturers have announced plans to start selling cell phones that include Wi-Fi, they all haven’t and they haven’t said that they intend to include Wi-Fi as a rule.
As much as Intel tries to deflect the blame for WiMax hype growing out of control, when its spokespeople make these kinds of comments it is only fanning the fire, especially when these kinds of comments are picked up by the mainstream press that may not have enough background on the subject to separate fact from fiction.
Nortel has demonstrated an OFDM and MIMO network in a lab that delivers peak data rates of 37 Mbps over a 5 MHz channel: Nortel is pushing OFDM and MIMO as cornerstones of the mobile networks that will follow HSDPA and EV-DO.
It is significant that Nortel is planting its stake firmly in the OFDM camp. While some other traditional cellular vendors have also been working on OFDM tests, I don’t believe that many have outright stated that they’re betting on OFDM for future cellular upgrades. Most of them seem to be hedging their bets a bit, pursuing OFDM as an option but not necessarily betting on it. As this Wireless Review (Wireless Review is a sister publication to Telephony) article aptly points out, it’s no foregone conclusion. Some vendors apparently still believe that CDMA has quite a lot of life left in it.
NTT Communications is using mesh networking equipment from Tropos to serve communities in Japan: The first deployment will cover the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni. NTT may also use the gear to build networks in cities and rural areas and chose Tropos after conducting a trial in Tokyo.
Mesh technologies like that offered by Tropos are good options for a lot of applications, particularly in the absence of WiMax standard gear. Some Mesh network providers, like BelAir Networks, talk about incorporating WiMax into their systems in the future. The result could be ideal for certain city-wide deployments.
Alvarion said it is making a micro base station for its BreezeMax platform: These base stations are designed essentially to deliver less capacity because they serve areas that are sparsely populated. The base stations will operate in the 3.5 GHz band and are designed to be WiMax compliant.
In January, Cambridge Broadband introduced a pico-base station, also based on WiMax. The pico base stations are designed for areas with a dense user base. They cover a smaller area, thus allowing a smaller number of people to share the available bandwidth.
It is encouraging to see these different types of base stations hitting the market. Operators will have a range of products that they can use in order to build a network optimized to their users.
NextWeb is most often the wireless ISP I point to when looking for an example of a WISP that has been successful, even in the harshest of markets: NextWeb is profitable, serves 2,000 customers, and offers services in 175 cities in California, including San Francisco with its notoriously noisy radio environment. The new offerings range from $159 for a service that bursts to 6 Mbps to dedicated connections ranging in speed from 512 Kbps to 9 Mbps. NextWeb also touts its ability to turn on new customers in three to seven days, which is usually far faster than broadband connections are provisioned from the telcos.
Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Com will deploy a fixed broadband wireless network in the middle of the year: The first pilots will take place in Siegburg and Rheinbach. T-Com has already tested the WiMax-like technology in its lab and will be deploying the network as part of a €250 million investment in its network. The vendor has not been revealed, although speculation surrounds Alvarion.
Deutsche Telekom appears to be quite aggressive in trying out new technologies. In addition to this trial, it is trialing equipment from Flarion, in which it also invests, in the Netherlands. Deutsche Telekom also has licenses in the 450 MHz band in Germany and speculation has it that the operator may deploy Flarion’s equipment there. It’s quite a variety of networks for the operator and it’s not entirely clear how they all may ultimately work together.
TowerStream uses broadband wireless to serve customers in five U.S. cities and says it has found a successful business model: TowerStream has 1,000 customers. An interesting component of TowerStream’s plan is that it operates totally independently of the telcos because it has its own wireless backbone. That makes its cost structure lower than other competitive operators.
TowerStream is also looking into ways that it can become a carrier’s carrier. This is a great way for it to leverage its existing network. The company plans to expand into another five markets by 2006.
TowerStream likely faces some challenges that it doesn’t go into much detail about here. For example, it places antennas on rooftops of tall buildings in these cities to create its backhaul network. Roof rights access became a huge issue when the LMDS operators were building their networks. Building owners started charging exorbitant rental rates and some operators were able to forge exclusive roof access deals, meaning the other operators lost out on valuable roof space. It’s possible that times may have changed, but I would suspect that the roof rights issue presents some challenges.
Jeff Thompson of TowerStream sheds a bit more light on the company’s voice over IP aspirations. TowerStream recently introduced a mobile voice over Wi-Fi offering in New York City. I was a bit critical of it because it sounded to me that TowerStream was planning on building tons of hotspots in public places and then attempting to link them together for a mobile service. But here, Thompson says the company is investigating solutions from Tropos, which has a mesh Wi-Fi offering designed to cover whole cities, and Cisco. Mesh solutions make covering large areas more practical.
But I still think Thompson underestimates the importance of ubiquitous or at least widespread coverage. He says that if you cover one square mile in Manhattan, you’ve got a million people. If we’re talking about a mobile offering, I disagree. If an operator is touting a service as mobile, customers will want widespread coverage or the service will be useless.
Intel, which has been involved in the development of an 802.11s mesh standard, has introduced its proposal: The 802.11s group met for the first time in July and has issued a call for proposals. Intel’s plan builds on the existing 802.11 a/b/g standard, adding functionality that allows access points to discover each other, authenticate, establish connections, and support quality of service. Intel hopes that ratification of a standard may happen in 2008. If I’m reading this correctly, the idea is to make the mesh capability a software upgrade to existing 802.11-based gear.
Bloomberg ran a massive (more than 4,600 words) story detailing the ups and downs of Craig McCaw’s career: This story is really an admirable feat, quoting a waitress for whom McCaw once left a huge tip, a high school classmate, and a 76-year-old man who McCaw first worked for when he was 16 years old. While much of this tale is well known, this story is notable in that it doesn’t omit McCaw’s failures. While the man has some incredible success stories, he’s not entirely perfect either.
All eyes these days of course are on McCaw’s Clearwire venture. The company now has a pretty stripped-down Web site for its future Ireland ventures. The site says that Clearwire Ireland is building networks to cover 14 towns in Ireland, including Dublin and Galway. The Bloomberg piece mentions Clearwire spectrum purchases that cover Copenhagen and I’ve recently also read references to potential Clearwire spectrum buys in Bulgaria and Belgium.
Clearwire has launched service in five cities in the United States but at least one expert thinks that the company may be about to make a much more significant announcement. Caroline Gabriel, research director at Rethink Research Associates, says according to several sources she calls reliable, Sprint and Clearwire have been negotiating a spectrum sharing deal. Such an agreement might pool the spectrum owned by both companies, allowing Clearwire to focus on quickly building a network across the country while Sprint focuses on its mobile cellular network, Gabriel concludes in a recent research report. In addition, such pooling of spectrum and the resulting extensive network would be attractive to companies that might want to lease the network and market services under their own brands.
Gabriel sees additional potential repercussions from such a deal. The partnership could spur owners of 2.3 GHz spectrum, known as wireless communications services or WCS, to actually use the spectrum. BellSouth, Verizon, and SBC all have WCS holdings. WCS gets a bit more complicated because initial versions of WiMax won’t operate in the band but presumably if the demand is there the vendors will make it.
Irish Broadband says it will have broadband wireless networks live in all of its coverage area later this year: The operator currently serves several markets and was recently awarded licenses for seven additional areas throughout Ireland. This article notes that Irish Broadband’s collaboration with Intel on a network in Leixlip is Ireland’s first WiMax trial. While technically that’s impossible because WiMax gear isn’t available, it’s clear the trial uses equipment based on the standard. O2 has also conducted a trial in a remote town in Ireland aimed at testing WiMax.
I’m also a bit confused about one comment from an Irish Broadband spokesman about the ubiquity of WiMax which he says doesn’t require users to be tied to a connection in the wall. The initial WiMax networks will require an antenna at the user premise which is then hardwired to a user’s modem, connected to a PC via Ethernet. A Wi-Fi extension, of course, eliminates the wiring. But WiMax on its own, at least initially, will require users to be tied to the wall.
Blue Sky Net, a non-profit community network, launched a regional wireless broadband network in Ontario, Canada (press release is not online yet): The network was built using BreezeAccess equipment from Alvarion. Blue Sky secured funding from a Canadian government program. Residents who can get the service hope it will allow them remain in the region while learning new skills. They also hope the network may attract businesses to the area.
TowerStream, a wireless ISP in the U.S., plans to launch a beta service in New York City that will allow mobile voice over IP over Wi-Fi (the press release isn’t available online yet): The beta follows a trial that TowerStream completed in Rhode Island. The hotspots will be backhauled using TowerStream’s existing broadband wireless network and users can move from the coverage of one access point to the next without the call dropping.
A Mobile Pipeline story reports that TowerStream will initially deploy 10 hotspots. In order to support the mobility aspect which is the interesting part of this trial, those hotspots will have to be clustered pretty closely together, meaning that customers won’t have far to roam.
I’m skeptical of where TowerStream is going with this. I believe that it’s possible to support seamless handoffs between hotspots, but it just sounds like such a bear to enable this kind of capability over Wi-Fi, especially considering the relatively small range of a single access point.
An executive is quoted in the press release thus: “Using advanced handsets, consumers will soon have access to high-speed data capabilities and enhanced voice features never seen on a mobile phone before.” I wonder what kinds of fantastic and superior applications will be developed for such an offering, given that countless companies across the globe have been working on cellular data offerings for years now. It would also take a company like TowerStream quite a long time to build a comprehensive network remotely comparable in coverage to any cell phone operator in any given city, so it’s unclear how useful such capabilities might be.
While it’s interesting to be able to demonstrate this type of offering, I think that TowerStream is taking an unusual approach to it. The exercise sounds to me a bit like TowerStream thumping its chest in an effort to intimidate cellular operators in the midst of ongoing debates comparing WiMax to HSDPA or other technologies the cellular operators are deploying. It may have been better to launch the trial and get people using it as a demonstration that mobile can be accommodated in Wi-Fi and ultimately WiMax as a taste of what’s to come without making such sweeping statements.