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Europe's first mobile WiMAX goes online

Amsterdam gets 3.5GHz connectivity

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WorldMax has launched Europe's first mobile WiMax deployment, covering the centre of Amsterdam so that coffee-shop dwellers can surf the web without puzzling over plugs and wires, once they've got their PC-card connected.

The deployment, which is being run by Alcatel-Lucent and part-financed by Intel, is operating in 80MHz of spectrum provided by Enertel, at around 3.5GHz. Apparently it offers speeds "comparable to broadband" for €20 a month. The network conforms to the 802.11e standard for mobile WiMax, so should be useable from a car, or a bicycle.

Right now the coverage is limited to within the Amsterdam ring road, but Chief Executive Jeanine van der Vlist is promising a country-wide network of 3000 base stations, and apparently has the money to make that happen.

3000 base stations might seem like a lot, especially in such a small country lacking in the kind of signal-blocking terrain that causes problems elsewhere. But KPN, the mobile operator, has almost 4000* base stations for their 2G GSM network in the country, and is operating at 900 and 1800MHz.

Logic would dictate that the much-higher frequency WorldMax is going to need a lot more than 3000 base stations if they're going to provide any kind of ubiquity of coverage - which will be necessary if they really want to compete with the mobile networks.

Intel is desperate to see WiMax succeed, having too much invested to consider any other outcome, but there's a world of difference between deploying a city-wide network for PC-card-toting laptops and competing with mobile phone companies across a whole country. It will be interesting to see how much in-building coverage WorldMax manages, and how quickly coverage can be expanded. ®

* Excluding Telfort. Figures for 2005.

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