Think Broadband offers free high-speed wireless trials

Broadband service reseller Think Broadband is offering 500 corporate consumers the opportunity to test the forthcoming i-BURST wireless high-speed service over the next month free of charge.

The company says it will give those people interested in trialling wireless broadband and who are located in the Sydney metropolitan area free access to the i-BURST service.

i-BURST is a wireless, carrier-grade broadband network currently being developed by Personal Broadband Australia (PBBA).

Those who participate will be given an NEC PCMCIA card to use for the duration of the trial, supplied by i-BURST system wholesaler PBBA. Users will be asked to supply a $500 refundable deposit for the hardware.

The trial from Think commences on 1 November and concludes in early December 2003.

Think Broadband proprietor Mark Dodgson said the i-BURST service is targeted at corporate broadband users looking for ways to communicate over the Internet while mobile. The service can be used for Internet access, streaming multimedia content, to receive e-mails or to connect back to corporate servers, he said.

The i-BURST service offers download speeds of up to 1Mbps, to distances as far as 8km away from the base station.

Unlike local area Wi-Fi technologies, which are based on the 802.11 standard, the i-BURST system is founded on IP architecture and delivered over the carrier-grade, licensed 5MHz unpaired spectrum band.

The trial i-BURST network encompasses around 100km2 of the Sydney metro area, including 200,000 homes. The technology was initially created by US company ArrayComm, and has been developed in Australia by a consortium of vendors, including Vodafone Australia, TCI and ComWorks, a subsidiary of 3Com.

PBBA marketing director John Filmer said the i-BURST wireless data network has been undergoing phase one testing over the past three months. The trials, which officially finished on 17 October, involved a total of 800 people, sourced both by PBBA directly and its consortium partners.

The trials were so successful with users that the company decided to extend the pre-commercial trials right up to the actual launch of the commercial network, Filmer said. All of the pre-commercial trial users will be transitioned across to the commercial network once it goes live.

The 500 free trial users from Think Broadband will be on top of the 800 users who have had their access to the pre-commercial network extended, he added.

A soft commercial launch of the I-BURST service is expected to take place by the end of the year, with a hard launch scheduled for January. Initially available in Sydney, the i-BURST service will be launched in Melbourne and Canberra in June/July next year, with Brisbane expected to come on board by the end of 2004. The company also plans to extend its coverage to Adelaide, Perth and Hobart at a later date, Filmer said.

Think Broadband is one of several distributors likely to be signed up as reseller of the i-BURST service. Filmer said a range of other large and niche players were also in discussions with PBBA to become i-BURST service providers, including OzEmail and Vodafone.

Think Broadband’s Dodgson said he had already received a good response to the wireless broadband trial, with interested parties including law firms and financial services organisations.

“It’s really targeted at anyone with a road warrior,” he said.

Think Broadband is run by Think Telecom, a reseller of International dial-up calls. Dodgson said the company also hopes to begin selling a range of other broadband products in the new year.

More details on the Think Broadband wireless trial are available from Mark Dodgson: mark.dodgson@thinktelecom.com

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