Sky Pilot offers low-cost wireless broadband

Sky Pilot Network aims to deliver long range and service quality similar to WiMax wireless broadband technology by implementing...

Sky Pilot Network aims to deliver long range and service quality similar to WiMax wireless broadband technology by implementing additional technologies on top of an IEEE 802.11a chipset.

Although not interoperable with standard Wi-Fi equipment, Sky Pilot's technology will benefit from the economies of scale that have driven the price of that gear, said Linda Kalcic, vice-president of marketing at Sky Pilot.

Sky Pilot's equipment will ship in volume in August, with subscriber units for indoors and outdoors each priced at $349 (£190). As with any equipment for service provider customers, carriers could subsidise that cost for end-users.

The WiMax Forum will begin certifying products by the end of this year.

Intel, which will make chips for WiMax gear, has predicted outdoor subscriber units will cost between $300 and $500 starting early next year.

By late next year, indoor units will be available for about $200, and in 2006 there will be add-in cards for notebook PCs priced at under $100. But price cuts will depend partly on how quickly WiMax gear sells, and some analysts and suppliers see less steep declines.

Sky Pilot lets enterprises and service providers extend the less than 100ft standard range of 802.11a up to between two miles and 20 miles depending on configuration.

The SkyGateway base station can be used in line of sight, non-line of sight or mesh configurations depending on a carrier's or enterprise's needs.

The SkyGateway has multiple directional antennas, each of which focuses the transmission power of the base station in one direction.

By switching among those antennas in brief time slots, the SkyGateway can provide 360-degree coverage, said Paul Gordon, vice-president of engineering at Sky Pilot.

SkyGateways can also be used in a mesh, along with devices called SkyExtenders, to get around obstacles and reach beyond the range of a single SkyGateway without a wired backhaul, he said.

End users cannot hook up to a Sky Pilot network with a standard Wi-Fi client, but based on customer feedback, Sky Pilot may make its gear interoperate with Wi-Fi in the future, Kalcic said. In addition, the company plans to roll out WiMax gear in the future as a separate product line.

The SkyGateway will cost $2,499 and the SkyExtender will be priced at $499. SkyProvision and optional SkyControl software, for service provisioning and management, will cost $499 and $2,499, respectively, both per 1,000 users. 

Meanwhile, Intel has teamed up with wireless infrastructure maker Proxim  to develop base stations and subscriber gear for WiMax.

Intel and Proxim aim to get WiMax products to market quickly and free up suppliers to develop their own innovative software features, according to Joe English, director of marketing for WiMax at Intel.

They will co-operate to develop both first-generation fixed WiMax gear and future mobile WiMax equipment based on the emerging IEEE 802.16e specification.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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