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The latest broadband wireless technology to go on trial in the UK is ArrayComm’s iBurst, which is being tested in Oxford prior to a potential expansion by Personal Broadband Australia (PBA).

ArrayComm announced in June that it would trial the broadband network around Oxford, and the tests are now in motion. The network is being built by TCI, an Australian telecoms integrator with a UK subsidiary. It was founded by Jim Cooney, the CEO of PBA, which was set up in 2001 in order to roll out the first commercial implementation of iBurst in its home country, and which is now considering acquiring spectrum in the UK.

PBA’s UK trial involves six base stations in the Malvern area, Belfast, Edinburgh and Oxford. If it is successful, the test could lead to the establishment of PBA in Britain, says Cooney.

Following an increasingly common pattern in broadband wireless, PBA works as both network builder and operator, in partnership with TCI. With the UK’s regulator Ofcom set to allow spectrum trading next year, it should have new opportunities in the country. iBurst has so far been deployed in 2.3GHz bands but can also run in 3.5Ghz.

PBA may have a hard job to penetrate the crowded UK market, which by next year will have extensive coverage from 3G and the broadband wireless network of PCCW, as well as likely WiMAX roll-outs from incumbent BT and various unlicensed services. Rather than trying to establish a new brand, a successful trial might lead to a partnership with an existing operator looking for a good way to use excess spectrum and move into broadband.

In 2001 PBA acquired spectrum during the Australian 3G auctions that would be suitable for iBurst and has now deployed the technology commercially in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, with a two-year roadmap to a national system covering 75 per cent of the population. Vodafone Australia is part of the consortium that brought PBA to market.

iBurst is based on ArrayComm’s IntelliCell smart antenna technology. This uses advanced signal processing to detect where a user’s transmission location and direct the antenna to focus the return signal there, rather than broadcast widely. This creates a ‘cell of one user’, which makes for highly efficient transmission and low power consumption.

The same frequency can be reused for multiple customers. iBurst transmits four bits of data per second per hertz per cell, about 10 times GSM capacity, and uses TDD techniques, allowing one channel to be used for uplink and downlink, aiding its spectral efficiency. It claims to be up to 400 times cheaper than 3G to operate.

Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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