Irish Broadband to trial WiMax, reveals plans for VoIP


28 Sep 2004

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Fixed wireless communications player Irish Broadband is planning to commence trials of the forthcoming revolutionary wide area wireless broadband technology WiMax as part of a collaboration with Intel and Alvarion, siliconrepublic.com has learned. The company has also revealed that it is in talks with a number of technology players about introducing free telephone calls over its service as part of a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) service.

In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, Irish Broadband managing director Paul Doody said that the company will soon commence trials of WiMax technology, which will enable Irish homes and businesses to bypass DSL and the nation’s crumbling PSTN network and enjoy high data speeds over wireless.

WiMax, which is capable of sending data over a range of 30 miles with data transfer speeds of up to 70Mbps, is currently among the new technologies being evaluated by the Forward Looking Programme of the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The technology is being viewed as a potential solution to Ireland’s continuing broadband woes and as a mechanism for bypassing the country’s decaying PSTN network.

A joint global study by Bear, Stearns & Co International and The Management Consulting Group (TMNG) labelled Ireland, with high gross domestic product but low broadband penetration, as one of the markets with the most to gain for fixed and mobile network operators that deploy new wireless broadband standards such as WiMax and MobileFi to augment the rollout of DSL and 3G services.

Doody said: “We are looking at a sea change in how communications will be performed in Ireland with the advent of WiMax commercially between 2006 and 2010. It will provide Irish consumers with the opportunity to enjoy high speed data services from anywhere in the country for a fixed price and will play a key role in defining where the telecommunications market is going.”

Irish Broadband provides fixed wireless data services with speeds ranging from 512Kbps up to 6Mbps and its customer base includes home users, small and medium-sized enterprises and large corporate players. The company’s service to business and home Internet users includes high speed always-on internet access (upstream as well as downstream) with unlimited connection to the internet from €30 per month for home users and €45 per month for business users.

The company is providing coverage in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Drogheda and Dundalk under seven existing licences, but has ambitions to provide total nationwide coverage. This ambition was helped by a recent decision by ComReg to award it with nine further licences under Phase 2 of ComReg’s FWALA 3.5GHz licensing scheme, covering for Athlone, Arklow, Ennis, Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Newbridge, Portlaoise, Wexford and Carlow.

It is envisaged that within four to six weeks Irish Broadband will unveil a new wireless service offering for mobile workers involving a special Navini RipWave product that allows them to work anywhere within Irish Broadband’s network on their laptops and enjoy at least 512Kbps unlimited broadband for €25 a month.

Doody told siliconrepublic.com that the company is in negotiations with a number of technology providers about introducing VoIP products that would enable users to make free phone calls over the internet.

The company is also planning to introduce additional firewall, virus protection and anti-spam software to customers for an additional €2-€3 per month.

Doody also revealed that the company is evaluating a retail strategy for its services such as bundling broadband packages with PCs, and is in negotiations with a number of big name computer chains.

In additional news, Irish Broadband is also understood to be in negotiations with an Irish IT outsourcing firm to provide its broadband customers with IT outsourcing services such IT systems management as well as internet and email management.

Irish Broadband is a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Toll Roads (NTR). Over the past number of years NTR has been working steadily in building up alternative public infrastructure businesses where it sees deficiencies in what is on offer to the Irish public through partaking in public private partnerships and is a major investor in operations such as Celtic Waste and Eirtricity.

By John Kennedy