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Madison, Wisc., gets one of first full-scale, full-on WiMax deployments: TDS Telecom (1.2m voice lines, 171K DSL lines), a sister company with US Cellular (6m customers, 26 states), rolls out licensed mobile WiMax, albeit in a fixed configuration. The service covers 55,000 households and 10,000 businesses in Madison with service at up to 6 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The combination of voice and data makes this a first in the U.S., although there are other early WiMax data networks deployed.
Residential service is $50/mo. for 2 Mbps symmetrical with phone service, $55 for 4 Mbps, and $60 for 6 Mbps. Dropping phone service cuts $5 per month, and there’s a $10/mo. bundle discount for the first three months. Business service starts at $129/mo. based on contract length. The WiMax receiver will have a two-hour continuously charged battery backup to preserve voice and data during brief power outages. No mention is made of setup costs or minimum residential service term commitments in the pricing document.
They have seven towers deployed, although the precise number in use is a little confusing: a map shows five running, two still in progress, while the press release mentions six towers at one point and seven at another. Each tower has a two-mile radius of coverage, they say, while their licensed are will allow them a total 35 mile radius around Madison. They’re using Alvarion 802.16e 4Motion equipment, but in a fixed not mobile configuration at launch; the hardware is upgradable later to seamless handoffs.
The company’s press release says that service installation requires a visit from a technician. This is typically the case with all new broadband. When I had DSL installed by then-US West in 1997, it meant a truckroll. Just a couple years later, self-install was the name of the game. The rule in telcos—that I read in a DSL textbook, of all places—is that services have to move to 95 percent self-install, 5 percent truckroll, at worst to become profitable and correctly priced offerings.
Network World is reporting that businesses will be able to buy the unmarketed service in three cities starting on Tuesday, 15-Jan.: The three cities are Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Offerings will be for businesses only. Pricing isn’t noted. Full-scale commercial deployment comes later in 2008.
Clearwire started selling its nomadic PC Card today for its current flavor of pre-WiMax service: The card sells for $230 or can be leased for $7 per month. Service is 1.5 Mbps down and 256 Kbps, and costs $60 per month. If you want both home and nomadic service, it’s $95 per month including all modem rental fees, with an introductory $80 per month rate for three months. The home service is $45 per month when sold separately, so it’s a good deal.
This service is nomadic, meaning that while it might work when in motion, it’s designed for fixed operation within the service area.
Alvarion’s BreezeMax with 802.16e is ready for business: The company has been testing their latest version with customer around the world. BreezeMax is part of their 4Motion system, which supports Open WiMax, a way for vendors to interoperate, Alvarion says. BreezeMax works in 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz.
Aperto announces telecom provide BSNL launches WiMax network: Aperto’s PacketMax gear will be up and running by January in six cities and four rural districts in India. Cost of service isn’t mentioned. The announcement doesn’t make it entirely clear whether the certified part is just for bragging rights, or whether this will be the largest such network in the country when deployed.
Alvarion has added WiMax base stations that include Wi-Fi: The BreezeMax WI2 and BreezeAccess WI2 are certainly the leading ends of a trend to make fixed WiMax (licensed bands) and pre-WiMax (5 GHz band) a complement to Wi-Fi. This sort of platform will make a lot of sense in feeding hotspots in outdoor urban settings and in installations in which wire just isn’t available or affordable. Alvarion claims a reach of over 19 miles.
KT has shown off the homegrown mobile wireless data standard, WiBro: The standard has aspects of mobile WiMax and cellular technology, and may wind up converging with international mobile standards in the future. KT claims access at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour. They have two access devices that can function as WiBro modems and for voice calls. The service will roll out next year.
The firm Irish Broadband will launch pre-WiMax services 14 cities across the country: They’re using Alvarion’s WiMax-ready gear with Intel CPEs. Speeds will run as high as a combined 12 Mbps for business and residences.
UAB “Netlas Tinklas” has launched in the Baltic state of Lithuania: It uses 3G UMTS TDD, which is a technology sold by IP Wireless, and is one of the many considered one of the potential broadband wireless winners for mobility. IP Wireless says the standard supports full mobility and 3 Mbps data rates. UAB has yet to sign agreements with customers, but continues to deploy in Vilnius and soon elsewhere.
Lithuania has several characteristics as a country shared with its neighbors Latvia and Estonia. They each have unique cultural and linguistic histories, and are each coming into the 21st century at different. Estonia has been an early and rapid adopter of wireless technology; Lithuania’s major telco just announced a major hotspot rollout. Any news on Latvia?
(Lithuania also has the closest living relative to Sanskrit extant today.)
IPWireless’s technology powers the T-Mobile’s so-called fourth generation (4G) network for broadband data, video: The technology is designed for both fixed broadband replacement and mobile access. The initial roll-out is in Prague, Czech Republic. Voice isn’t mentioned in the press release. The service is offered at 512 Kbps (699 korunas/US$29 + 19% VAT per month) or 1 Mbps (999K/US$41 + VAT), but speeds are not guaranteed. While they’re calling this 4G, the lack of initial voice integration makes it hard to take that label seriously.
I’ll confess ignorance: I can’t seem to find a solid definition of 4G as there is for 3G. Older sources claim that 4G will top 100 Mbps. Others seem to include converged IP networks that carry voice, data, and video. Enlightenment welcome in comments.
Over in the Slovak Republic earlier this week, T-Mobile opened up a Flash-OFDM network that offers 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps service for mobile and fixed data. Video and voice aren’t mentioned in this article.
The UK firm has rolled out its Skylink service across Kent in Southeast England: The service provides up to 10 Mbps of service in each direction along with VoIP. The fiber/wireless backbone crosses 1,300 square kilometers, 675,000 households, and 60,000 businesses.
The symmetric offering is critical, Telabria says in its press release, because it’s so seldom available. Businesses need upstream bandwidth to serve Web pages, transfer huge documents, and push material out to clients, customers, and the general public. The company offers 1.5 Mbps to 10 Mbps at distances of up to 12.5 miles from a base station.
Skylink offers 1.5 Mbps symmetric for £49.99 per month and 3 Mbps for £79.99 per month. Premium symmetric services are £249 for 5 Mbps and £369 for 10 Mbps. Residential asymmetric services include 1.5 Mbps (£24.99) and 3 Mbps (£34.99) downstream with 512 Kbps upstream.
A full variety of VoIP options for personal and business use are also available as overlays.
The service uses 5.8 GHz bandwidth and pre-WiMax gear which Telabria is referring to as “WiMax-class” equipment. Since WiMax devices aren’t certified yet, it’s all about performance rather than interoperability.
Telabria has also installed 74 Wi-Fi hotspots. Skylink subscribers will have free access to those locations, some of which are in London and the rest throughout the Southeast.
Clearwire has apparently launched services in Belgium: It sounds as though the network is already live and serving customers but for some reason Clearwire isn’t talking about it. Seems like an unusual way to try to attract customers.
I wrote about Clearwire’s activities in Europe a couple of months ago when Caroline Gabriel at Rethink Research said that she expected Belgium to be the next European launch for Clearwire. At the time, she thought Clearwire may have already launched in Denmark but I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of that.
In Belgium, Clearwire is using the 3.5 GHz band and seems to be offering a good price for the access, although I’m not familiar enough with the market in Belgium to know what competitors there are charging.
Perhaps Clearwire is hoping to soft launch service in a few markets in Europe and then orchestrate a larger media announcement about its plans. We’ll just have to wait and see.
BellSouth is selling broadband wireless in Athens, Ga.: The operator announced the plans last month but the service is now available. The lowest cost service is $30, which is a decent deal given that these customers could totally get rid of their landline phone. BellSouth said it’s interested in using broadband wireless to reach customers that are beyond the reach of DSL.
TowerStream added Brooklyn and Queens to its coverage area: TowerStream says it currently has “hundreds” of customers in New York that it serves from three base stations. TowerStream targets business customers. [look here for the press release, which should turn up eventually.]
My hometown will be Clearwire’s 10th market: Eugene is a little island of population in the middle of Oregon, about 100 miles from the Portland megalopolis which encompasses much of the citizenry of the state. And despite Eugene’s strong blue-collar roots in lumber and other industry, there’s a big lump of academia and service in the middle.
Clearwire’s technology offers 1.5 Mbps for about $30 to $40 per month through wireless data sent over licensed spectrum. The company has chosen smaller cities in which there’s a good chunk of population with fewer options. Eugene has the duopolies but not much else, and a good part of the city is spread out making it harder to get full-speed DSL.
A company called Ice Communications is set to start offering broadband wireless services in parts of Ireland: The company Web site is a bit weak on details so I’m not exactly sure what equipment or frequencies are being used, but I’m guessing that the network is using either proprietary gear or base stations loosely based on 802.11 technologies because the Web site says that customers must be within line of sight of the base station. Customers can subscribe for 38 euros per month for 1 Mbps downlink and 256 Kbps uplink.
This is a decent deal in these parts particularly because that’s the total cost and there is no download limit. By contrast, the wired options cost around 30 euros on the low end, always require an additional line rental fee, and usually have a download limit. Since practically everyone in Ireland has a cell phone, Ice customers could do away with their expensive landlines all together.
The antics of Eircom, the incumbent telco in Ireland, are making this country a prime spot for wireless broadband operators. Eircom is making life hell for competitive providers that wish to use its lines to deliver DSL. Operators may be better off building their own wireless networks than trying to deal with Eircom (not that I’m suggesting these operators give up the fight though). It’s clear that some operators already are pursing this idea, given the disproportionately large number of operators here using broadband, including Irish Broadband, DigiWeb, Leap (recently bought), and others, including Clearwire which has yet to launch.
Hunter Communications serves about 200 customers in Oregon using its own fiber network: The operator recently was able to extend its reach by relying on broadband wireless. Hunter also built a Wi-Fi network covering the Medford airport, also using a wireless link for backhaul.
Broadband wireless ISP NextWeb launched services in Las Vegas: The network is available to 35,000 companies in the city. This is NextWeb’s first foray outside of California, where it serves customers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a bunch of towns in between.
Last week Towerstream announced its entrance into the very crowded San Francisco market. It seems a curious market for Towerstream to chase given that San Francisco is notorious for its many broadband wireless service providers. A NextWeb spokesman confirmed recently that Towerstream has not joined the Broadband Access Network Coordination group, an organization started by NextWeb and others so that the operators could work together to minimize interference with each other.
Stratos Global Corp. is offering broadband wireless access mainly to oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico: The network reaches off-shore rigs and production platforms and can provide high speed data services and telephony for far cheaper than satellite-based solutions, which in some cases may have been the only other option. Stratos is using Alvarion’s BreezeAccess equipment.
Benson Online built a network in Tanzania using Navini’s technology: About 2,000 modems are currently in use. The operator is seeking government approval to start offering voice services on the network. Navini plans to be compatible with 802.16e.
NextWeb said its network now covers 50,000 additional people around Los Angeles: Further expansion in the area is in the works. NextWeb is also working to expand its BANC group to the region. NextWeb started up the group in the San Francisco area so that broadband wireless operators could work together to avoid interfering with each other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Craig McCaw’s Clearwire launched service in Daytona Beach, Fla.: This new market follows Jacksonville, Fla.; Abilene, Texas; and St. Cloud, Minn. While Clearwire owns some MMDS licenses, it is offering the service in Daytona through an interesting agreement with a local college. Clearwire will pay the college $10,000 per month to use its wireless licenses. This story describes the college’s holdings as “16 microwave channels.” I’m guessing the college has Instructional Fixed Television Service, or ITFS, licenses. These licenses are in the same frequency range as MMDS but were given to schools and religious institutions. Those organizations can make deals with operators, as long as they continue to use some of the spectrum for educational purposes. In Daytona, the college will use 5 percent of the spectrum to offer Clearwire Internet services to faculty and staff.
The ITFS band became popular during the last big interest in MMDS. In fact, I remember attending a Wireless Communications Association conference where one of the keynote speakers was a priest from some area that controlled a lot of ITFS spectrum. He was there to discuss potential partnerships between such organizations and companies.
If you do some simple math, you’ll find that Clearwire needs 400 of its lowest cost customers (once the initial three-month $15 deal ends) to break even on just the licensing fee. Clearwire also employs 11 people in the Daytona area and plans to hire more. The network at launch covers 45,000 homes and will soon cover 65,000. I don’t know enough about the Daytona market to know what other kinds of competition Clearwire has there. However, Clearwire’s pricing for end users is quite good. I’d be glad to pay $25 a month for a 512 Kbps service (in fact, I’d pay twice that here in Dublin where it’s incredibly difficult to get any kind of broadband service.).
A handful of Canadian cities are getting broadband wireless networks, thanks to Xplorenet: The company is using Motorola’s Canopy gear to build networks in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver and some smaller cities. The operator will use a wide range of spectrum, including 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.9 GHz.
Canada is quite the unwired country. Wireless technologies are perfect especially for the more remote areas of the country which have very sparse populations.
Canopy will be an interesting product to watch. It’s done well around the world and while Motorola has joined the WiMax Forum, it’s not clear if Canopy will become WiMax compliant. So far, the lack of the WiMax promise doesn’t seem to be affecting the demand for Canopy.