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Ireland gets wireless broadband

Well Belfast anyway...

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Personal Broadband is to build a mobile broadband network across Ireland based on the iBurst technology, making use of its two radio-spectrum licenses.

The network, which will be available for corporate customers, will be capable of 1MB/sec.

Personal Broadband's licenses both cover a 20MHz band between 1785 and 1850MHz. One comes from Ofcom, for Northern Ireland, and the other from ComReg, for the Republic. They were snapped up pretty cheaply (£352,000 for the NI license, and £139,000 for its license in the Republic), and come under the new technology-neutral licensing, where companies buy up the frequency and use it as they please.

Since its 2004 trials in Oxford as "Personal Broadband Australia", little has been heard of the company. But it has been quietly running an iBurst test site in Belfast, and trying to find some radio spectrum to play in.

A company spokesman said it had no aspirations to become a mobile phone network:

"This is defiantly a public sector and corporate play. Today there are no handsets or PDAs supporting iBurst, so it's PCMCIA [PC Card], USB, or desktop modems. There should have been PDAs coming out this year, but they've been delayed."

The technology should be useful to companies looking to connect their employee laptops to a single network no matter where they are.

It will also present opportunities in machine to machine communications: "We've run demonstrations using iBurst to send back pictures from CCTV cameras in buses, even streaming the footage to a pursuing police car in real time."

Project head Jim Cooney successfully launched iBurst in Australia and was also heavily involved in the Oslo launch. He's also helping finance the company.

But rolling out a network is expensive, even when the frequency allows for relatively large cells. Covering all of Ireland costs a great deal, so Personal Broadband will have to work one customer at a time, starting from Belfast. Those first customer wins will be critical for the company, and the technology, as they'll be needed to fund the country-wide roll-out. ®

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