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Wi-Manx launches WiMAX...nearly

Isle of Man steals Europe's wireless limelight

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The Isle of Man has got Europe's first commercial WiMAX network - or, at least, a wireless network using WiMAX equipment, even if it's not actually on a WiMAX frequency.

Wi-Manx's network is currently only available in Douglas, the capital, but the company has plans to expand island-wide in the future.

Operating on 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz puts it outside the officially-sanctioned WiMAX frequencies, but the deployment is still using the standard to achieve decent line-of-sight and near line-of-sight speeds.

There's no local loop unbundling on the island, so Manx Telecom has an effective monopoly on ADSL and the margins for internet providers reselling the service are tight, making wireless more attractive than in the rest of the UK, though still primarily a business proposition.

The Isle of Man is no stranger to early wireless deployments. In 2001, mmO2 (the early incarnation of O2) triumphantly announced Europe's first 3G deployment, 24 transmitters serving only the most desperate early adopters.

In 2005, O2 deployed the first HSDPA network on the same basis, though by now the original deployment was known as a "test bed". Telefonica (as it is now known) isn't involved this time - as owner of Manx Telecom it is suddenly the fixed-line competition. ®

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