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Ericsson Installing LMDS Network in Colombia

Hoping to expand its footprint to all things South, wireless phone giant Ericsson Monday said it has begun installing one of South America's first national Local Multipoint Distribution Service (LMDS) networks.

With the help of Columbia-based Flycom Comunicaciones (a new company formed by ISA Group Interconexion Electrical), Sweden-based Ericsson is using its MINI-LINK point-to-multipoint broadband access platform.

LMDS is a microwave-based access technology that allows operators to provide wireless broadband services to other operators, enterprises, buildings/campuses, as well as to mobile network backhaul traffic. Ericsson said a key advantage of LMDS is that it offers the same full-scale service and capacity benefits as fiber with dramatically reduced installation time.

"As more Latin American countries prepare to introduce LMDS, Flycom will demonstrate to the region the significant flexibility and cost-efficiency of our market-leading MINI-LINK solutions," said Ericsson Colombia president Fredrik Ambjorn.

In addition to the MINI-LINK system, Ericsson is providing a full complement of services to Flycom, including network design, project management, network rollout and implementation, training and maintenance.

So far, Ericsson has concluded the initial phase of the project, and Flycom is already offering commercial broadband Internet access and services to businesses and consumers in major Colombian cities such as Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga. Expansion of the LMDS network is expected to occur as subscriber demand grows, with the second phase of the project beginning in 2003.

"We chose Ericsson's MINI-LINK point-to-multipoint LMDS solution because of its superior quality and proven reputation in deployments around the world," said William Arango, Flycom Technology Manager. "In addition, we view Ericsson as a trusted services partner, providing us with the expert integration and support services necessary to the successful growth of our network."

Flycom was formed to participate in the allocation of LMDS licenses conducted by the Colombian National Government a few years ago. The company obtained one of the two licenses awarded for national coverage. The investment of ISA Group into the Colombian telecommunications sector includes a national network for optical cable that covers 3,500 kilometers and a microwave network managed by Internexa S.A., a "carrier's carrier" in Colombia. Flycom will serve the small, medium and large enterprise segments and the residential sector with LMDS services.

Currently, there are two wireless standards, mobile phone standards: CDMA2000 and GSM . The two technologies have historically been broken down along geographic lines. Europe remains a GSM stronghold, while the United States is firmly rooted in CDMA and TDMA technology. Asia has gotten a blitz of CDMA technology courtesy of San Diego-based wireless giant QUALCOMM , but has been wavering between that and GSM.

Research group also IDC predicts the number of cellular subscribers in Latin America will grow to 143 million while the number of mobile data subscribers will jump to more than 71 million users by 2004.

According to a study by The Strategis Group, wireless Internet services are expected to grow from 1.4 million subscribers in 2000 to more than 47 million in 2007. The study, "Latin America Wireless Internet Markets," analyzes the region's six largest marketsArgentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela for many of the most common wireless Internet technologies.