PBA bursts into wireless broadband

Personal Broadband Australia (PBA) officially launched the iBurst mobile broadband network last night, with the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Daryl Williams, attending the ceremony.

Personal Broadband Australia (PBA) officially launched the iBurst mobile broadband network last night, with the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Daryl Williams, attending the ceremony.

The service currently gives businesses and residents access to broadband-speed data in the iBurst coverage vicinity spanning more than 200 square kilometres in the Sydney metropolitan area, with updates progressing over the next few months to expand the service along the eastern seaboard.

Senior analyst for IDC Australia, Warren Chaisatien, says the network is "filling a speed and coverage void" left by other wireless and wireline technologies.

"Today you can get wireless from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, and the coverage is great but the speed is bad. Whereas cellular and Wi-Fi providers can provide high speeds but they don't have the coverage," said Chaisatien, adding "iBurst has jumped in to serve this particular market."

iBurst has been operational for the past 18 months, testing the technology of the services and holding customer trials. The pre-launch assessment period was supported by a syndicate of technology and distribution partners, including OzEmail, Vodafone, TCI, Mitsubishi Corporation and Telstra Wholesale.

Williams said iBurst added a "new dimension to an already competitive and technologically diverse sector." He also stated that the product is an example of "what can be achieved when government and industry are flexible and open to opportunities."

Newly appointed chairman and chief executive officer of PBA, Jim Cooney, said the launch represented the "culmination" of 3 years of work dedicated to "adding mobility to broadband in Australia".

Cooney said the network will expand its service later this year to cover Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, with the full national rollout planned for 2005.

"This will provide a fully mobile 1Mbps service to approximately 75 per cent of the Australian population and 95 per cent of Australian businesses," Cooney said, adding "Beyond that, the technology roadmap for the iBurst service has the expansion potential to achieve speeds of 4Mbps and 8Mbps per user not too far down the track."

The iBurst network is operated by smart antenna technology, providing users with mobility at broadband data speeds. PBA claims the service is fully compatible with existing laptop and desktop computers without the assistance of new computer devices or upgrades.

IDC's Chaisatien says the technology is "impressive" and should have a "bright future", however he stresses that its "uniqueness" in the market may only remain for the next few years as the 3G network progresses.

PBA says the service is distributed wholesale to its various channel partners, yet they estimate retail prices for laptop access cards will cost around AU$150 per month, offering speeds up to 1Mb per second and 1GB of downloads; bridge access for desktops, according to PBA, will cost approximately AU$90 per month for the same speed and download allowance.

Chaisatien says the price may be positioned in the market as a "premium solution", but he claims iBurst has the right to be more expensive because it's so unique.