Wireless broadband i-Burst technology is poised to start commercial engineering trials in Sydney in preparation for a full launch in March next year.
The project, managed by a consortium comprising Vodafone, OzEmail, Total Communications Infrastructure (TCI), Crown Castle Australia and CKW Wireless, promises seamless wireless broadband coverage over 150 square kilometres of Sydney via 10 radio communications base stations, with full commercial operations of the system to commence by March 2003.
With the consortium's participants working from remote locations in the US and UK, as well as Sydney, CKW Wireless director Judy Slatyer said the project had been a test of the viability of a virtual company, as much as it had been a technical challenge.
"We are calling it a pre-commercial rollout because its not the technology that actually needs testing, it is more the business model that is on trial," Slatyer said.
OzEmail chief executive officer Justin Milne says the technology will ultimately rival 802.11 services, offering seemless wireless DSL connectivity throughout the city's central business district.
"It's a true cellular data service," Milne said. "To offer a similar service using 802.11 technology you would have to set up literally thousands of hubs throughout the city."
Slatyer says a number of groups have already expressed interest in the product and believes the initial drivers will not differ greatly from current broadband applications.
"The early drivers will simply make it easier to do what people already do on their laptops today," Slatyer said. "Ultimately it will mean listening to any radio station you want over the Internet while jogging, or any range of activities which take advantage of the technology's mobility."
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