RealTime IT News

Hot Spots for Mobile Wireless

CAPE TOWN -- Around 100 high-speed wireless internet Hot Spots are likely to be installed around the country over the next year or so as Walker Wireless teams up with Cisco to provide mobile business people with dream connections.

Walker Wireless has already installed nodes at a number of airports, petrol stations and truck stops and has a number of beta customers testing the capabilities of its 10Mbit/sec service which it plans to make commercially available by July.

The company recently secured a global roaming agreement with Cisco so subscribers can use the service when they are at airports and other locations throughout the US and Europe.

The service is seen as an ideal extension of the corporate network, with strong interest from all types of businesses including small to medium enterprises who only want to have access for two or three mobile staff members.

Hot Spot is geared to those who want fast web browsing when theyre out of the office or to avoid the hassle of reconfiguring their PC for dial-up internet access when theyre in hotel rooms or airport lounges around the world.

The service essentially geared for laptop access operates very much like a GSM phone. "You just click on an icon and presto youre on-line," says Walker Wireless managing director Paul Ryan. Within two months the company will be offering a range of time-based subscriptions starting from $25 a month.

Ultimately he says the Hot Spot nodes could also be installed within offices to allow wireless mobile computing. "We have chosen some customers we work well with whore testing our capabilities at the moment, mainly for web browsing and extranets accessing their secure virtual private networks." Mr Ryan says 50 per cent of Walkers several thousand wireless users are in the VPN market.

This kind of wireless networking is going mainstream in the US currently. Starbucks for example expects to have access points in its 4000 stores across the US.

Meanwhile Walker Wireless is making huge infrastructure investment including Siemens Unisphere routers which can process huge numbers of transactions at wire-line speeds. The company is also rolling out new equipment to operate in the 2.3MHz band to use the MDS licences it has acquired earlier this year.

As part of its core wireless network Walker Wireless is continuing to extend its coverage which it had hoped would take in 85 per cent of the nation by the end of the year. Things have slowed largely because the New Zealand spectrum auction took so long. However it recently added Dunedin, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Wanganui to its network. It had existing coverage in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga.

A $90 per month small to medium business product is due for release in June after Cisco equipment was held up in the US.

Mr Ryan says people simply want a broadband pipe they can use for a range of traffic types and Walker wireless has been quicker at delivering this than anyone else. Voice over IP will drive growth in wireless including the use of wireless LANs. ASP applications will also be a driver, including storage area networking, he says.

The company continues positioning itself as a neutral broadband network provider, geared to work with a range of existing carriers including content providers such as television. It is in discussion with TVNZ and Telstra-Saturn.