Personal Broadband will offer Sydneysiders a world’s first, probably later this year, when its iBurst service becomes available.
iBurst, developed in the US by ArrayComm, is driven by smart antennae technology that provides users with mobile access to broadband data transfer speeds without the need for line of sight as they travel through a carrier-grade, IP-based, wireless data network.
In most countries, a service provider would need to operate on the Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. But under Australian law, Personal Broadband will be able to operate on 5MHz of the Time Division Duplex (TDD), which it bought from the government for $9.5 million.
Personal Broadband has been conducting engineering and staff trials with OzEmail and Vodafone since February and is currently running end user trials with 400 customers of those companies. The trials should be completed in October.
The service is due to go live in December.
The trials have been run across six base stations, stretching from Chatswood through Sydney CBD and out to the airport. Another network of base stations is being built for the live service on the same path, but extending to the St Ives district in the north and out to the airport via Bondi.
Personal Broadband CEO, Charles Reed, said the network offered coverage of up to 12kms in “favourable conditions”, but 5kms was a more realistic estimate under most circumstances.
He estimated data transfer speeds at 6Kbps and claimed the six base stations in the trial network offered more coverage than all the Wi-Fi hotspots in Australia put together.
“The service is complimentary and supplementary to voice networks,” Reed said. “If you are sending megabit packets of data then iBurst is ideal, if you are sending small packets or smiley pictures then 3G would be more suitable.”
Following the Sydney implementation, Personal Broadband plans to rollout services in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Hobart and Darwin within the next two years. The company estimated it would build 10 base stations a month for the foreseeable future wherever there is demand.
Reed said he had already held discussions with carriers, Internet service providers (ISPs) and systems integrators interested in taking the service to market.
“I am a great believer that the Australian telco market is quite mature,” he said. “The existing retail and distribution channels are very effective and the market is conducive to a wholesale model.
“Companies with a VPN would rather extend to iBurst through existing providers than go through a new one.”
Reed estimated Personal Broadband had spent about $40 million on developing the network to date. Formerly known as CKW Wireless, a name Reed said it had operated under while negotiating the purchase of the TDD spectrum so as not to draw attention to the project, Personal Broadband counts ArrayComm, Mitsubishi and Kyocera among its backers.
In other news, Personal Broadband has appointed two new members to its senior executive team — John Filmer as marketing director and Campbell Nicholas as general finance manager and company secretary.
Prior to joining Personal Broadband, Filmer was a strategic adviser to Telecom New Zealand. He also spent more than nine years at Optus, where he headed up the Enterprise Group, and was vice-president of EMC Europe. Campbell was chief financial officer of ASX-listed National Telecoms and held a similar position for a mobile reseller and switched voice service provider, Worldxchange Communications. A certified practising accountant, he started his career at Ernst and Young.