BigAir rises high into city apartments

BigAir has its eye on high rises, taking on an additional 1000 unit-dwelling broadband customers and the promise of more, with its W Home acquisition, announced Wednesday.

W Home, a subsidiary of E-Pay Asia, provides broadband Internet services to premium apartment buildings or multi-dwelling units (MDUs). It installs high-speed ADSL connections into a concentrator at each MDU and then distributes access throughout the building using Very high data rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) and Ethernet technologies.

The acquisition (for an undisclosed amount) will see BigAir take on the access agreements from W Home, which provide perpetual rights to deploy infrastructure in almost 100 MDUs. The service has already been activated in 37 of these MDUs, which includes approximately 8000 apartments across Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast. BigAir is also acquiring the infrastructure used by W Home to service the customers in each building.

The deal is expected to add around $500,000 in annualized revenues to BigAir.

BigAir CEO, Jason Ashton said the W Home business model was an excellent fit with the BigAir independent high speed wireless broadband network.

"The existing W Home buildings are mostly serviced using slower ADSL and SDSL for the 'last mile' network connection into each MDU. We intend to replace these slower last mile connections with our own high speed symmetric fixed wireless connection, thus eliminating reliance on other carriers and also greatly improving the operating margins," he said.

Current W Home customers will be seamlessly transferred over to BigAir's own network for the last mile; all they should notice is the extra speed, according to Ashton.

Within the MDUs, W Home makes use of VDSL, which transmits data at speeds up to 55 Mbps over short distances using twisted pair copper wire. The shorter the copper loop, the faster the connection rate.

"The combination of our high speed wireless network connection to each MDU, with the VDSL and Ethernet distribution within the MDU, provides a low-cost, high-speed platform which will support 'triple-play' services. We will be able to deliver some of the fastest residential broadband speeds available and we can completely bypass Telstra and its legacy copper network," Ashton said in a media statement.

While the current W Home service only offers broadband Internet, BigAir intends to expand this offering in the future to include Voice over IP and Video on Demand. Ashton said that while getting the infrastructure in place is BigAir's priority at the moment, the company will look to partner with Video on Demand and IP TV companies down the track.

"The great thing about this model is that we have that aggregation into the building and we can leverage all kinds of high speed services all over our network, so we are able to generate really good margins," he said.

BigAir is also on track to launch a soft release of its wholesale strategy to other ISP's carriers, integrators and IP services companies later this month.

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