M1 starts wireless broadband trial

The month-long trial will help the Singapore-based mobile operator evaluate wireless broadband access technologies.

SINGAPORE--In the run-up to the commercial launch of wireless broadband services in the island-state, MobileOne (M1) has started a trial at a local mall.

According to the mobile operator, the trial will cover Parco Bugis Junction shopping mall, and involves the use of mesh Wi-Fi and pre-WiMax equipment for last-mile access.

The trial is expected to last a month, and will allow the company to evaluate the cost, capability and performance of the mesh Wi-Fi and pre-WiMax network as compared to other wireless broadband technologies, M1 said in a statement.

Wi-Fi networks are cost-effective in providing broadband access over a wide area by using a series of Wi-Fi access points, interconnected over radio links, the company said.

Several Wi-Fi networks can then be connected to a centralized location using pre-WiMax wireless backhaul. With the ubiquity of low-cost Wi-Fi chipsets in laptops and handheld devices, this set-up could improve the cost of providing wireless broadband services, M1 added.

The operator currently holds four 2.5GHz wireless broadband spectrum lots. It paid S$2.1 million (US$1.3 million) for these lots at an auction held in May last year by Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority. Five other players, including SingTel, StarHub, Pacific Internet, Qala and inter-touch, have also been allocated spectrums.

M1 is expected to commercially launch wireless broadband services by year-end.

For Derrick Heng, a sales engineer with a Singapore-based electronics company, it is the price that matters. While ubiquitous Internet access provided by wireless broadband technologies appeals to Heng, the cost of wireless broadband services must not be higher than that for Wi-Fi access.

"I'd definitely use it especially since I'm traveling all the time, but the price must be right," he said.

Currently, the cost of wireless broadband modems ranges from US$150 to US$300, but hardware makers such as Motorola estimates that prices will fall when more players join the fray in producing modems that meet industry standards.