Arasor readies high speed wireless technology, awaits telco uptake

Wireless product enables bandwidths up to 50Mbps

Australia may fall in the first-world category, but outside its major cities, there still exists a need for broadband infrastructure that is not dissimilar to the needs of developing nations China and India, according to Larry Marshall, managing director of Arasor in Australia.

"The environment [in China and India] is very similar to rural Australia, where we don't have a lot of infrastructure," he said.

According to Marshall the technological disparity between metropolitan and rural areas has made for an "interesting dynamic" in the Australian telecommunications space.

Based in Silicon Valley, U.S., and with operations in China, Japan and India, the hi-tech optical chip developer and manufacturer has this week announced the acquisition of Sydney-based photonics research facility, the Bandwidth Foundry (BWF). The purchase marks Arasor's first major play in the local market since its October 2006 listing in the ASX.

Currently, Arasor is partnered with telecommunications providers China Netcom in China and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd in India to provide speeds of up to 50Mbps via a wireless extension to optical fibre infrastructure. In Australia, however, Marshall noted more of a reluctance to adopt the new wireless technology in favour of existing copper networks.

"The issue is, for someone to deploy our kind of technology in existing infrastructure, they've got to make a decision not to use existing legacy copper network anymore," he said. "That's a big decision for a carrier to make, and I wouldn't criticize Australian carriers at all for having trouble with that."

In most parts of Australia, Marshall expects Arasor's technology to remain on the backbenches until Telstra is able to deploy its long-awaited Fibre to the Node (FTTN) network. If deployed, FTTN will be good news for Arasor's wireless products, which simply work as a plug-in to augment the optical fibre infrastructure.

"I think because Telstra has made the decision to [consider] FTTN, they are going to spend a lot of money on that, and are then going to have this big sunk cost that they're going to have to leverage, so they won't want to do this kind of wireless for a couple of years," he said.

"From our standpoint, that's not competitive at all; it means we will simply plug in our wireless equipment, and just leverage that presence, so it's actually a good thing, it just means that it will take probably a couple of years before Telstra gets around to getting serious about very high speed wireless access."

In the meantime, Arasor's offerings could appeal to smaller service providers looking to provide wireless Internet access in rural areas, Marshall said, as the product enables a network to be easily extended, which in turn facilitates a pay-as-you-grow model for start-up ISPs.

Providers of other services outside of the traditional telecommunications sphere may also consider expanding their offerings through the wireless product, Marshall said, citing the example of the Shanghai Media Group, which has established a wireless IPTV network in China.

"An interesting thing we're seeing all around the world at the moment is that the lines between telecom carriers, content providers and people like Google are really getting blurred," he said.

"It's possible that some of the TV carriers may look at deploying this kind of technology because they've already got their broadcast infrastructure in place, and it's not really a change for them; it's kind of an extension of an existing service," he said. "They might be a better point of entry than a traditional carrier."

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