Somerfield sets out stall for WiMAX access to network

The supermarket chain will pilot the WiMAX solution at its Manchester sites as an alternative to a leased line

Virtual network operator (VNO) Vanco is claiming to be the first managed services provider to deliver WiMAX access to a corporate Wide Area Network, rolling out such a service to retailer Somerfield.

The supermarket chain will pilot the WiMAX solution at its Manchester sites as an alternative to a leased line to deliver primary access to the company IT network where DSL is not available; to deliver back-up access where DSL is the primary access method; and to provide a disaster recovery solution.

At some point this month, March 2008, Somerfield will be operating live services without having to undergo new build-outs in its datacentre; it expects the new wireless solution to plug into the existing resources. Within the life of its service contract, Somerfield will have wireless network access within 50 UK cities.

Explaining the rationale for the deal, Steve McKeaveney, Vanco’s Global Head of Technical Consulting told Computer Weekly that his company was ready to capitalise on a latent demand for wireless services.

He commented, “Last mile access has been a major limitation in telecommunications. There is a lack of choice and innovation in DSL; Altnets [Fixed alternative network operators] deliver services based on PTT products and new services are slow to market and patchy.  Wireless technologies are breaking the restrictions globally and wireless technologies will offer enhanced service and cost efficiency. [In addition] wireless will be an enabler in developing regions.”

The choice of WiMAX is intriguing for all businesses as currently it can offer, where available, symmetrical services delivering typical bandwidth levels up to 10Mbps at a range of up to 10Km. In contrast, 3G-based wireless broadband solutions such as HSPA and EV/DO offer greater coverage areas but at a reduced throughput and are asymmetrical.

Technology agnostic Vanco regards the wireless solution as being cost-effective and competitive to DSL. It believes that wireless can be an excellent backup solution providing genuine diversity and improved service availability compared to DSL with multiple access points and lower repair times due to simplicity of solution. Most importantly in the context of business critical networks, Vanco is confident that it can offer wireless customers class of service guarantees based on Committed DataRate and/or Network IP Awareness.

However the VNO does concede that wirless still has a number of challenges including knowing when it is the right technology; certification of the technology and numerous providers; security concerns; the competitive nature of the market; and building an appropriate solution for enterprises.

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