Europe's first mobile WiMAX goes online
Amsterdam gets 3.5GHz connectivity
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.
Aerea WiMax in real life
I am one of the early birds on the WorldMax network in Amsterdam. I wasn't expecting much since they openly state they are still working hard on the coverage. This weekend I received my Wimax PCMCIA card; installation was smooth and I was online within 10 minutes. On their website I checked the coverage and for my location they stated the coverage would only be available outdoors. Currently I am sitting indoors (near the window tho) and my connection has been stable for an hour now. Downloads are around 1mbit/sec (60 - 120 kB/s), uploads are a bit disappointing only hitting 5 kB/s. Ping times are acceptable for almost anything (except gaming, and slow on SSH). For the record I ran a speedtest as well: http://www.speedtest.net/result/286988520.png .
I also took the laptop for a walk and I must say it is all working pretty smooth. True mobile working outdoors, indoors the coverage is acceptable as long as you don't go to far in the building (i prefer a window seat anyway :-)). I will try a download&drive session as well, see if the hand-overs are going smooth and download continues while cruising in town.
Theory vs. real-life
The indoor coverage, even within the Amsterdam city-ring, is very poor and they admit it. Their opening-offer is a bargain so I decided to give it a go for a month and will let you know who was right in the discussion above (frequencies, coverage, indoor, outdoor, etc, etc).
I think you mean 802.16e don't you? Otherwise your comments are correct re the number of base stations, in-building penetration and usage. Another factor is the cost of Mobile Wimax CPE/USB dongles etc - still expensive and littel choice.