Australia's first WiMax network comes to Sydney

BigAir claims to have outpaced the Australian government with the deployment of fixed WiMax networks in Sydney and Melbourne

One company claims to have beaten the government's AU$1bn (£423m) WiMax network to the punch with the first commercial launch of a wireless broadband network based on the same technology.

BigAir today announced deployments of fixed WiMax networks in both Sydney and Melbourne, using kit from Airspan. The Sydney network upgrade is already in progress and Melbourne's should be under way from next month, the company said.

BigAir is also hoping to deploy a third fixed WiMax network in Brisbane before the end of the year.

Fixed WiMax was given a massive boast earlier this year with the news that the Australian government was investing an additional AU$358m in a WiMax network to cover the bush. The network will be run by a joint venture between Optus and Elders and will receive around AU$1bn in government funding in total.

However, analysts believe that WiMax may struggle in future as it competes with other long-range mobile broadband technologies, including such cellular standards as HSDPA and LTE (Long Term Evolution).

A new report from analysts IDC found that the certainty of the 3G roadmap has given mobile broadband considerable advantage over WiMax due to its "superior coverage and high speeds at competitive access costs".

In 2006, the Australian mobile broadband market topped 287,000 subscribers and generated AU$115.7m in service revenues. The wireless broadband market, including WiMax, had 125,300 subscribers, creating AU$100.3m in service revenues. IDC expects that mobile broadband users will outnumber their WiMax equivalents significantly throughout the period until 2010.