Eircom confirms WiMax trials are under way


12 Oct 2006

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Eircom is conducting ongoing trials of WiMax broadband services that will herald an era of Wi-Fi-like internet services over long distances, a spokesman for the company confirmed.

However, he said, the launch of such services are not imminent.

In recent days rumours have been circulating that Eircom is planning to launch WiMax-like services that would act as a “Ripwave killer” in competing with wireless broadband firm Irish Broadband.

However, a spokesman for Eircom told siliconrepublic.com that no such plans are imminent.

He did confirm, however, that the company is conducting trials of WiMax and other technologies to move beyond the limitations of fixed-wireless access, for which Eircom is licensed.

WiMax, which stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, is a standards-based wireless technology that provides high-throughput broadband connections over long distances. WiMax can be used for a number of applications, including broadband internet connections, hotspot and cellular backhaul and high-speed enterprise connectivity for businesses.

WiMax supports point to multi-point broadband wireless access rates up to 2Mbps plus over a minimum coverage area of three to five miles. Low network investment costs and non-line-of-sight operation over licensed or non-licensed radio spectrum makes WiMax an attractive technology.

At present Eircom has 83 sites around the country currently covered by fixed wireless antenna. Sixty of these are broadband enabled.

It is understood that Eircom’s new chief executive Rex Comb gave a presentation to business group ISME highlighting the fact that Eircom is looking at technologies like WiMax.

According to a presentation given by Eircom to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications during the summer, Eircom argued that the use of WiMax in rural areas as a broadband solution is questionable but the business case in urban areas is quite strong.

It is understood that 180 customers are being trialled for WiMax and that as many as 45 locations have been surveyed. A decision on the commercial rollout will follow when the trials have been completed.

The spokesman told siliconrepublic.com: “We are still awaiting the conclusion of the trial and are considering different technologies. WiMax is certainly one of the technologies we are looking at.”

By John Kennedy