The CTIA Wireless 2006 show in Las Vegas features the debut of a new player in the equipment market for municipal/citywide Wi-Fi access. Go Networks of Mountain View, California is using the show to debut its Metro Broadband Wireless (MBW) system, which it calls a “carrier-class cellular Wi-Fi system.”
Yuval Mor, the company’s Vice President of Marketing, says the goal goes beyond the usual triple play of data, voice and video by adding mobility (he calls it the quadruple play), all using standards-based equipment so client systems with Wi-Fi don’t need any special changes.
To get its cellular-like approach, the MBW will consist of roof- or tower-mounted micro base stations with panel antennas offering 120-degree coverage and smaller pico cells to fill in coverage gaps at street level. The pico cells can form a mesh network using the 5GHz 802.11a for backhaul connections.
The MBW 2100 WLAN Sector Base Station (WLS) uses beam-forming with smart antennas through a technology they call xRF. The company thinks this phased-array technique is not only necessary to get better range and capacity, but that it gives a competitive advantage when a body like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “is giving special release to devices with smart antennas because of the fact that the devices are better neighbors,” says Mor.
Controlling the WLS with the MBW 1000 WLAN Pico Base Station (WLP) and connecting it to a carrier’s backbone is a Go Networks MBW Wireless Network Controller (WNC). It “acts as the communications device between the wireless and the carrier network, interfacing with billing, OSS and so on,” says Mor. The company will also offer a Wireless Media Gateway to serve as the customer premises unit (CPE) extending coverage to the indoors.
Another technology that the company calls xCell is present on the system for optimization of both network and radio frequency (RF) settings and routing, everything from load-balancing to Wi-Fi quality of service (QoS) for voice and video.
“We’ll offer carriers a complete endpoint solution on the access side,” says Mor. “This is built toward carrier requirements.”
With the talk of beam-forming and phased-array antennas in the base station, Go Networks’ WLS product sounds a bit like Vivato’s products, and that company went under last year. What’s different? “We all benefit from the precedents they set and the special ruling [from FCC] I mentioned,” says Mor. “Our panel is a third of the price and a fourth of the weight of the Vivato. What killed them was the cost structure.”
Go is staging trials in Europe and Asia right now in small cities and campuses — they’ve got a trial in place with the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications — with plans to build a “level of confidence” in the product before going after big city opportunities. No pricing structure is set yet, but Mor says the cost should be, per square mile, 20 to 30 percent lower than other citywide Wi-Fi solutions currently available.
Go is a member of both the Wi-Fi Alliance and the WiMax Forum, and has plans to work with Mobile WiMax (802.16e) in the future.