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Airspan: WiMax is not a 'disaster'

The network equipment supplier has dismissed the claims of an Australian ISP that attacked WiMax's range and ability to support VoIP
Written by Marcus Browne, Contributor

After one ISP reportedly claimed WiMax was a "disaster" that didn't perform, its network equipment supplier, Airspan, has hit back, defending the technology and labelling the ISP cheap.

Speaking at a WiMax conference in Bangkok last week, Garth Freeman, chief executive of Buzz Broadband, disparaged the technology, according to a report in Communications Day. Freeman said that WiMax's range was limited to two kilometres and it was unable to support VoIP, the report said.

The small Queensland, Australia, ISP previously provided WiMax-based broadband to around 200 users in regional Queensland, according to Airspan. The ISP had received funding under the Australian federal government's "Broadband Connect" initiative until last year, when it was replaced by the Australian Broadband Guarantee (ABG) in April 2007. ABG provides subsidised internet access for Australians currently unable to gain a reasonable level of broadband service at their principal place of residence or small business. Buzz Broadband is not listed under the government's official ABG suppliers.

"Mr Freeman's recent statements highlighted two complaints: the range of the solution and the quality of service capabilities for voice traffic," said a spokesperson for wireless technology manufacturer Airspan in a statement.

"Airspan offers both micro-cell and macro-cell base-station solutions; Buzz Broadband opted to go with the less expensive micro-cell technology in order to reduce cost. This was a well understood trade-off of cost versus range," the spokesperson said.

The manufacturer has claimed that Buzz's network was under-provisioned and was never going to provide the coverage and quality of service that had been promised to its users, with its spokesperson saying the company "doesn't know" how Freeman could have been surprised with the coverage and associated latency issues.

"In the case of Buzz Broadband, we know that there were significant under-provisioning issues in the core network which connected the Airspan equipment to the internet," said the company's spokesperson.

"Very early in the relationship, Airspan technical services determined that Buzz's backhaul network was considerably under-dimensioned — again to save cost — and lacked sufficient quality of service, and that these factors were the direct cause of VoIP-quality issues in the network," the spokesperson added.

Airspan Australia's managing director, Grant Stepa, told ZDNet.com.au on Wednesday that the company had offered to fund independent analysis from a group of telecommunications "industry veterans" to determine what needed to be done to correct problems with Buzz's service and improve its coverage.

"They made no attempt whatsoever to follow our course of action; we gave [Buzz] advice on what to do with their back-end network infrastructure and suggested ways to rectify the other problems they were having," said Stepa.

The Airspan managing director said that the company has other significant Australian customers using the "exactly the same technology" with no such complaints, such as South Australia-based ISP Internode.

"We're not talking to [Buzz] anymore; obviously comments like the ones he made would hurt the relationship… They've not replied to our specific concerns with their network and the ways to fix them; ultimately we just want to see the technology work," Stepa said.

Freeman was unavailable when ZDNet.com.au contacted Buzz's head office on Wednesday. Another Buzz representative declined a request for comment.

ZDNet.co.uk's David Meyer contributed to this report.

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