Regional broadband telcos taken by storm

A new broadband product based on the next generation Wi-Fi technology, WiMax, is offering regional and community telecom operators the chance to provide fixed and mobile high-speed services independently of Telstra.

The Broadstorm technology is being supplied nationally by Phone Vision, a Melbourne-based telecoms wholesaler, under an exclusive five-year distribution agreement with the technology’s US developers, Kaon Systems.

Phone Vision managing director, John Blackett-Smith, said the Broadstorm mobile broadband service could be used to provide data, voice and video services at speeds of up to 70Mbps.

Broadstorm is provided through a combination of CDMA and WiMax technology, currently being benchmarked as the wireless standard 802.16 by the international Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) forum.

The service is delivered through base station transmitters, with coverage extending across a radius of 10km. The wireless network is then backhauled to an IP-based network – such as those maintained by carriers Comindico, SPT and Optus – eliminating the need to connect to any of Telstra’s existing infrastructure, Blackett-Smith said.

Because the quality of the Broadstorm service could be managed from the network edge router through to the terminal port, the service was backed by a 99 per cent uptake service level guarantee, he said.

The Broadstorm technology will be trialled in July by community telco Countrytell in the Albury-Wodonga region of Victoria. The trial is being funded by the state’s government under its regional development infrastructure program.

The trial would involve 50 terminals initially, fitted with DSL-like WiMax modems, Blackett-Smith said. Countrytell will initially install one base station to service the majority of the Albury-Wodonga area. The service will be backhauled by telecom network operator SPT, a subsidiary of SP Telecommunications, across its IP-MPLS network, while the CDMA telephony system will be backed by AAPT.

“This is an ‘endless trial’ – it’s considered a commercial venture,” Blackett-Smith said.

As well as the trial with Countrytell, Blackett-Smith said Phone Vision was on the verge of signing up several community-based telecoms businesses. The company had also struck a nominal partnership with Optus for its Broadstorm service at the end of May.

He said one of the biggest problems in expanding broadband across rural and regional areas without access to ADSL, cable or ISDN was the lack of information about suitable alternative technologies for delivering services.

“People are raring to go, but just don’t know the technology that is available to provide broadband services,” he said.

The Broadstorm service was ideal for these communities as it offered a more affordable way to provide broadband, Blackett-Smith said.

“A community [organisation] is a good way of going about it [Broadstorm],” he said. “Any motivated community of 3000-plus people can afford this technology.”

Initial set-up costs for the Broadstorm service, including base station infrastructure and associated management systems, are $150,000. Additional Broadstorm transmitters will cost $100,000.