Unwired names WiMax suppliers

Unwired names WiMax suppliers

Summary: Wireless telco Unwired has shortened its list to three potential hardware suppliers for its WiMax network roll-out, which will see hundreds of base stations light up in the next 12 months to bring wireless broadband to 13 million Australians.


Wireless telco Unwired has shortened its list to three potential hardware suppliers for its WiMax network roll-out, which will see hundreds of base stations light up in the next 12 months to bring wireless broadband to 13 million Australians.

Eric Hamilton
(Credit: Unwired)

Motorola, Alcatel-Lucent and Chinese vendor Huawei were the trio who crossed the line after Unwired requested information from various suppliers, the company's chief technology officer Eric Hamilton told ZDNet.com.au today.

He would not disclose whether the list of three had been whittled down to one, but in a demonstration, where he showed the speeds WiMax could reach, Motorola equipment featured heavily.

Unwired's original, pre-WiMax network was supplied by Navini Networks, now a subsidiary of Cisco Systems.

The news comes as Unwired has finally crossed the line to profitability, recently signing up the total of 70,000 customers it required to break even. Parent company, the Seven Network's latest annual results said Unwired technically contributed a paper loss. An August 2007 briefing around Unwired's annual results saw the number sitting at 69,592.

When the WiMax roll-out occurs, the older equipment which Hamilton said services over 75,000 customers will not be decommissioned.

"We'd expect to see a gentle transfer of customers from one network to another," Hamilton said. Customers receiving services via WiMax technology could expect a minimum download speed of 2Mbps, Hamilton said, with 4 to 6Mbps expected.

The roll out will spread across the regions for which Unwired has spectrum coverage, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Geelong, Newcastle and the central coast. There were no plans at this point to expand past the current spectrum footprint, Hamilton said.

In a Sydney demonstration of WiMax's capabilities, Unwired's WiMax achieved a download speed of around 11Mbps and an upload speed of 2Mbps receiving a signal from a base station 3km away in line of sight. Linked to another base station which had no line of sight, the technology achieved 2.5Mbps downlink and 1.3Mbps uplink.

At the same time, Telstra's BigPond was tested, as well as the Optus and Telstra 3G networks. The BigPond fixed broadband service Unwired had set up saw 5.7Mbps/859Kbps for a service rated at a maximum of 20Mbps. Optus' 3G achieved 1.3Mbps/323Kbps and Next G saw 2.8Mbps/608Kbps.

When queried on how many customers the new WiMax network would require for the company to break even, Hamilton would not be pinned down, saying that the company wasn't purely looking at a customer level, but at the millions of devices which could use the technology, such as smart meters. Utilities Energy Australia and SP Ausnet have been trialling WiMax for smart meters, he said.

Plans and pricing had not been set, according to Hamilton, although Unwired has purchased an Australian mobile phone billing system, New Vista, which Unwired plans to adopt and implement for event-based billing.

Mobile devices would be fair game for the technology, he said, believing that the next two to three years would see mobiles open up to having WiMax, 3G and Wi-Fi capability. Motorola has been looking into WiMax devices, he said.

Mobile carriers could use Unwired's WiMax services as mobile virtual network operators, he continued, implying that it might get some carriers "which are in deep trouble because of use of high speed data" out of a bind.

Topics: Mobility, Networking, Telcos, Wi-Fi

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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  • Who would of thought!

    All we heard from Telstra is WiMAX was a load of crap - Ignoring the fact it's being rolled out overseas in droves.

    WiMAX will be 2-3 years ahead of LTE, and is already miles ahead of oversubscribed 3G networks.

    Unwired also have about 100Mhz of spectrum to play with which is about 10 times what all the 3G carriers have.

    The quicker they roll out WiMAX the quicker I can ditch my overpriced NextG and non-functioning Virgin Wireless Broadband!
  • Back door into future Seven PayTV?

    Apart from WiMax which I'm glad to see growing...

    It will be very interesting to see what Seven does with this. A TiVo (with a much larger hard disk) could download a large quantity of movies & tv shows in off peak times, for you to watch when you feel like. Kind of like the "Top Up TV Anytime" service in the UK.

    While I'd prefer true video-on-demand through IPTV deals with existing ISPs, the WiMax option gives Seven a cheap payTV network if they want it, and I believe they do.