A new services deal with Ericsson and the scheduled commercial launch of its fixed wireless high-speed service in June will see start-up ISP, Unwired, plunge into the Australian broadband market.
Ericsson announced a new relationship with Unwired last week to provide network support and services in the lead-up to and commercial launch of Unwired’s Sydney-based wireless broadband service.
According to Ericsson business development account manager Nathan McGregor, the new arrangement with Unwired is predominantly services-based. Ericsson will provide backhaul transmission, network monitoring, technical and field support to Unwired, as well as a customer care facility based in its service centre in the Sydney suburb of Ryde.
“This is an operations and monitoring role,” he said. “Unwired’s solution fits with Ericsson’s broadband strategy … to increase services in networks that aren’t necessarily ours.”
Ericsson is currently training a small percentage of its staff on the specific wireless technology being employed by Unwired, but the majority of Ericsson staff who will work on Unwired’s wireless network were already familiar with core wireless network operations, McGregor said.
While Unwired’s deployment of wireless broadband services follows several similar launches by new and existing ISPs over the past 12 to18 months, Unwired plans to take a unique approach to the way it delivers wireless broadband by focusing on a “portable” and not “mobile” service.
The main distinction between Unwired’s service and other wireless technologies sprouting across the country is Unwired utilises a fixed wireless access (FWA) service, in preference to a local area network (or LAN, employed by Wi-Fi providers using 802.11 technology).
The Unwired wireless broadband service is delivered using a point to multi-point microwave radio technology transmitted over the 3.4GHz licensed spectrum band. Unwired acquired the 3.4GHz spectrum for all metropolitan cities across in Australia during the 2000 spectrum auctions.
The Unwired service offers users access speeds of up to 1Mbps at distances in excess of 10km away from the base station. McGregor said one of the earlier misconceptions surrounding the 3.4GHz band was that it was difficult to deliver the service without both the base station and receiver maintaining line-of-sight connectivity.
“It was believed that you had to go line-of-sight – you’d need tall towers both at the delivery and receiving end in order to use this technology,” he said.
“But this hasn’t been the case at all. You can use this spectrum [for wireless broadband] with an in-building wireless antenna no bigger than an ADSL modem.”
Unwired, which was acquired by Breathe Group late last year, recently reaped $100 million in funding in preparation for its commercial roll-out.
The ISP expects to have 75 base stations up and running in the Sydney area by the time of its scheduled commercial launch in June this year - translating to about 1.2 million homes and 240,000 SMEs.
Service demonstrations are currently being undertaken in the Sydney suburbs of Pyrmont, Balmain, Wollstonecraft and Waverton. Two plans are on offer: a standard plan featuring a 1GB monthly download allowance, and a standard with throttle plan, also with 1GB of downloads, but with speeds capped to 28Kbps after the download limit is reached. Both plans are based on 512Kbps/64Kbps access speeds.
Unwired CEO, David Spence, said more than 40 residential and business customers were currently trialling Unwired’s service.
“These customers are highly satisfied with the service and we are currently expanding the size of the trial further," he said. "These customers will be offered Unwired's commercial services when we launch later this year."
Details on the pricing structure for the commercial service and Unwired’s retail partners are yet to be announced.
Spence said he was also unable to comment on the ISP’s roll-out plans beyond Sydney.
“We are not yet ready to announce our specific roll-out plans beyond Sydney,” Spence said.
But although the arrangement with Unwired only covered its Sydney network at present, McGregor said Ericsson was in discussions with the ISP to provide similar services as Unwired expanded its wireless service nationally.