A UK start-up is building what it hopes will be the country's first network based on this emerging high-speed broadband wireless technology.
Telabria has begun construction of a WiMax network in southern England, with testing to begin in January and commercial service slated for mid-2005, the company announced this week at the WiMax Forum in Boston.
With that timetable, the company aims to be the first in the UK to offer commercial WiMax service and among the frontrunners in Europe.
Because of the initial high cost of WiMax, Telabria plans to use the new wide-area wireless technology for its own backbone and for enterprise customers, but will connect consumers and small business with another, lower-cost technology, said Telabria founder and chief executive officer Jim Baker.
WiMax technology, based on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 802.16 standard, can extend broadband wireless over longer distances and at higher speeds than existing Wi-Fi systems. Its access range is up to around 48km, compared with Wi-Fi's 90m. It supports data transmission speeds up to 70mbps, compared with the popular 802.11b Wi-Fi standard's 11mbps or 802.11a's 54mbps.
The WiMax Forum, established in 2001 by a number of industry heavyweights, has been working on standards certification and interoperability testing. The first generation WiMax systems, based on the 802.16-2004 standard, could be certified by the middle of next year, according to Baker.
Many experts expect WiMax service to be deployed in rural areas, where high-speed cable infrastructure is either poor or non-existent. Some also see opportunities to use the technology for backhauling traffic between Wi-Fi hot spots, as well as for creating large wide-area hot spots.
Telabria has agreed to use 802.16-compliant technology from Redline Communications Redline's AN-100 system, operating initially in the 3.5GHz band, supports both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint links. The company is a member of the WiMax Forum and expects full certification for its system by the middle of next year, according to Baker.
"We don't want to wait with our trial until this product has WiMax Forum certification, but we will wait for certification before we launch our service commercially," Baker said.
Because Baker expects WiMax customer premises equipment to be too expensive for residential users and small and medium-sized businesses initially, he has decided to use 802.11-based systems from SkyPilot Network with additional proprietary quality-of-service and security features, he said.
Telabria will sell the proprietary systems for $349 (£188) per unit to residential and SME customers. "That is much more affordable than the $1,000 that we expect WiMax systems to cost initially," he said.
Service to residential users and SMEs will cost below the £20 a month for no less than 1mbps transmission speeds, a price in line with average ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) in the UK, according to Baker. Service will also be available at speeds up to 3mbps for an additional price.
Enterprise customers will be offered end-to-end WiMax links with committed rates.
From the start, Telabria plans to offer VoIP service, according to Baker.
WiMax trial networks are beginning to sprout up around Europe. The Norwegian city of Skelleftea, for example, is currently conducting a test. Irish Broadband Internet Services is also conducting a trial in Dublin.
John Blau writes for IDG News Service