Wireless to eat 10 percent of broadband pie by 2007

Wireless access will account for nearly 10 percent of Australian broadband connections within three years, according to telecommunication analysts Ovum.The company predicts 298,000 of 3.

Wireless access will account for nearly 10 percent of Australian broadband connections within three years, according to telecommunication analysts Ovum.

The company predicts 298,000 of 3.1 million broadband connections servicing Australian businesses and consumers by 2007 will be wireless.

Ovum says the figure includes both fixed (Wi-Max) and mobile (MBWA) wireless broadband connections, but excludes wireless data connections employing 3G mobile handsets.

Ovum which recently presented its findings to the Department of Information Communication Technology and the Arts, said that much of the future success of the wireless will be fought out in the political arena.

Echoing warnings by Unwired's CEO David Spence last month, Ovum today said that government intervention to stop anti-competitive behaviour by carriers will be a key factor in the success of wireless broadband in Australia.

But that cuts both ways. When Unwired bid for spectrum in metropolitan and regional areas in 2002 the government deliberately excluded Telstra in order to stop the telecommunications heavyweight parking the spectrum.

The move was designed to give emerging players greater prospects of providing alternative broadband access in the bush.

However, Unwired is only using its Sydney spectrum at present, and still seems to be groping around for a viable and profitable use for its rural spectrum allocation.

Sydney-based Ovum analyst, Daniel Swift, said Spence has to show some intention of using the rural spectrum eventually because broadband in the bush is "something of a political hot potato".

"If someone purchased spectrum at an auction where Telstra was deliberately excluded, for the set purpose of parking the spectrum, it wouldn't go down that well," said Swift.

Among other notable findings in the report, Ovum said the future of mobile wireless data services was uncertain as the "commercial applications" for the technology were still unclear.

Currently, mobile wireless access technology is murkily defined, sitting partly in the domain of carriers like Hutchison '3' which provide voice-centric but data-capable services on their mobile network and Personal Broadband Australia, which provides high-speed mobile data infrastructure capable of carrying voice in digital form.

Unwired says it will provide equivalent mobile-to-mobile handover capability within two years.

According to industry sources, police and other emergency services operators are currently evaluating PBA's iBurst 802.20 technology for civil applications but ideas for commercial and consumer applications are still thin on the ground.

"It's still uncertain as to whether people need to move around and access their bandwidth while they're moving at 100km/h," said Swift.

According to Swift, the WiMax standard behind Unwired's service has far broader industry support from Intel and Nokia, meaning that was likely to press down the cost of customer presence equipment. In contrast iBurst, whilst more advanced, utilises a proprietary standard.

PBA currently charge around AU$500 for their network and around AU$80 per month for 1M/bits network access while Hutchison 3 charges an AU$99 flat rate for its all-you-can-eat 384Kbps service.