3 in technology deal to ensure quality in-door broadband

30 Jan 2009

3 Ireland, which last week signed a €223m contract with the Irish Government to bring the country to 100pc broadband connectivity, has inked a deal with a Californian tech firm Nextivity to provide consumers with devices that boost the broadband signal in their homes.

Mobile operator 3 revealed last week it is to create 170 jobs on the strength of the €223m Government contract for the National Broadband Scheme (NBS).

The mobile operator will deploy and upgrade its network of 3G infrastructure to enable citizens to access high-speed broadband via its cellular network.

Ireland currently has over 1.2 million broadband subscribers, and the NBS will provide the remaining 10pc of our population — or approximately 33pc of the area of the country — with broadband services.

It is therefore envisaged Ireland will have 100pc coverage by September 2010 — half of the area under the scheme will be covered by the end of this year.

Under this new deal with Nextivity, 3 will sell Smart Repeater devices that will enable people who live in homes where the broadband signal is obstructed by building materials like concrete – known as path loss – to boost the signal around the house.

These devices sit at windows of homes and interact with the mobile base station, and in turn transmit the enhanced signal throughout the house.

Tim Bresien of Nextivity explained that the technology enables optimal in-home voice and data, while overcoming path loss.

The company has also deployed Smart Repeaters in T-Mobile stores across the Netherlands.

“Often what happens is materials in walls, ceilings and floors absorb the radio frequency (RF),” explained George Lamb of Nextivity.

The veteran research team at San Diego-based Nextivity developed its technology over an intensive two-year period.

“3 quickly recognised the fact that while a lot of people wanted to use high-speed wireless, not many were willing to stand outside in their gardens just to get it. The path loss typically eroding a quality wireless connection could be the difference between a 7.2Mbps connection and a 3.8Mbps connection,” said Lamb.

The Smart Repeater consists of two boxes – one near the house window and one inside the home – that transmit the data between them on the same frequency as Wi-Fi before it’s re-broadcast at a cellular frequency of 2.1GHz.

Nextivity Smart Repeater

“3 could have easily decided to deliver the broadband to the window – as per its contract – but it wanted to make sure that no matter where you were in your home you could use your HSPA dongle or handsets to get proper quality voice and broadband. It’s good that it is thinking ahead and making plans in this area,” Lamb said.

Lamb, who designed the user interface for the Smart Repeater product, said the system is designed to be used by anybody from a child to an elderly adult. “You literally take it out of the box and plug it in, that’s it.”

According to Bresien, while every home in the NBS will not require a Smart Repeater, “3 is being very proactive by including these plug-and-play devices in its strategy.”

By John Kennedyc

Pictured: the Nextivity Smart Repeater