Australian ISPs Warm To Wireless

A quick straw
poll
of several Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
twelve months ago revealed a general lack of interest in wireless fidelity
(Wi-Fi) as a commercial product.


The wireless space is now a hive of activity.


Twelve months ago, AAPT subsidiary
Connect Internet Solutions were not “playing in the wireless networking space” and had no immediate
plans. “The reason for this is that wireless networking invariably requires
desktop access,” according to the company. “Connect’s access to the customer is
confined to the outer.”


Connect continues to hold that view.


For AOL|7, however, the
past twelve months have sparked an interest in Wi-Fi as another delivery
platform.


Last year, the company had “no current plans to introduce wireless
networking. AOL’s priority is meeting the needs of Australian consumers and we
will develop new products and services according to consumer demand.”


“We see wireless as simply another method of delivering broadband to
consumers,” Alistair Carwardine, AOL|7 chief technology officer, now says. He
notes that the ISP has, “recently launched AOL|7
Broadband
as an ADSL service. However, we will
certainly consider offering this service over wireless networks in the future,
particularly as this technology matures.”


AOL|7 would partner with a provider who best suited the needs of both the
company and consumers, as they do with all network services. A wireless trial is
planned for June.


Carwardine says Wi-Fi is “an exciting opportunity to develop a new
distribution mechanism for AOL|7 Broadband that complements our ADSL strategy
and offers terrific benefits for the consumer.”


The technology is particularly useful in areas where ADSL is not available,
he believes. However, wireless requires a critical mass and, in regards to
broadband, technology that is currently not widely available.


Australia’s second largest ISP, OzEmail, have also
developed an interest in wireless over the past twelve months. In June last
year, they jumped on board one of more significant wireless
broadband trials
in Australia.


Commercial products released by the Personal Broadband
Australia
consortium will be sold
under the OzEwireless brand, OzEmail’s wireless Internet
service.


Vodafone are also a partner in the consortium, which began with $AU
25 million in financial backing. They plan to rollout a commercial product later
this year.


Pacific Internet
Australia
has also progressed their interest in
wireless. In particular, their Singapore branch has launched wireless for
business, consumer, and hotspot markets.


Iain McKimm, Pacific Internet Australia director of technology and strategy,
says local deployments will not be the same density as Singapore.


However, plans are in place for hotspot deployments.


“We will partner with some providers and have some of our own,” McKimm says.
“Pacific is assessing both current and new players in the market.”


Pacific has deployed a trial hotspot that will form the basis of their
wireless strategy.


McKimm agrees with AOL|7’s Carwardine that wireless is convenient for remote
applications and extending the reach of broadband to areas not covered by DSL,
particularly in rural point to point or multipoint. Pacific is currently
deploying in the Hunter Valley.


However, he points to spectrum congestion and security as two key
concerns.


Earlier this year, Primus Telecom
also made moves on the wireless front. Their ISP division, iPrimus, launched a
wireless broadband
service
through a series of hotspots in the CBD of
Sydney and Melbourne.


“Over coming months, we will be looking at a range of new sites covering
major businesses, hotels, restaurants and coffee houses as strategic locations
for other partnerships,” says Campbell Sallabank, Primus general manager,
product development.


Primus Telecom provides the DSL infrastructure, Internet access, hosting and
network access while Azure Wireless
operates the network management.


“Primus is in a very good position to provide the back-end infrastructure as
demand for wireless Internet expands,” says Sallabank, “and as customers and
venue owners recognise the value of establishing hot spots in landmark
locations.”


Australia’s second largest telco, Optus, is also making moves on wireless. In
April, they
launched
the first of several hotspots at Brisbane
airport.


Optus has committed $AU 10 million to deploying 500 new hotspots at locations
around Australia over the next twelve to eighteen months. Target areas include
airports, cafes, convention centres, and hotel
rooms.


Allen Lew, managing director of Optus Mobile, said at the launch that the
company is talking to Azure and a whole range of other providers about hotpot
roaming arrangements.


One such arrangement already is place exists with Air
Portal
, giving its customers access to the
provider’s planned network of hotel-based hotspots.


Never one to miss the new technology bandwagon, the incumbent telco has also
dipped their toes into wireless waters. Telstra
completed their purchase of wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) operator,
SkyNetGlobal, in January this year.


The $3.3 million transaction provides Telstra’s customers wireless services
at a number of hotspots in such places as Qantas Club lounges, and Rydges
Hotels.


Such widespread activity on the wireless front, however, raises concerns
about possible spectrum
congestion
. Roaming arrangements augur well for some
order among the chaos.


Recent
comments
by Optus suggest that some form of
cooperation is likely.


“The limited amount of Wi-Fi spectrum is likely to lead to some degree of
sharing of Wi-Fi services in high usage areas,” says Andrew Smith, Optus acting
director of mobile networks. “Roaming is also likely to develop as the Wi-Fi
environment grows and commercial agreements are struck between Wi-Fi service
providers.”

Reprinted from Australia.Internet.com.

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