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Tuesday, 29 September 2009 00:55

Unwired reveals key suppliers & plans for national WiMAX rollout

Unwired has named the remaining key suppliers for the Vividwireless mobile WiMax network rollout in Perth and says networks in the major capitals will follow in short order.

David Spence, Unwired CEO, said: "Our focus is on making Vividwireless into a national consumer fourth generation network over the next couple of years." Vividwireless CEO, Martin Mercer, added: "After we launch in Perth it will only be a short time before we colonise the rest of the country."

Spence told iTWire that, in addition to retail services offered through Vividwireless, Unwired would make the network available to wholesale customers. "We want to keep an open platform. If people want to offer surveillance services or want to resell to homes, absolutely [we would welcome them]."

Huawei was named early in September   as the supplier of mobile WiMAX technology and DragonWave as the supplier of microwave backhaul for the 150 base stations last week . To that list have now been added Juniper Networks in partnership with IBM as the supplier of core and edge routers and security appliances, Optus and Verizon Business for Internet access, Optus for optical fibre links from 15 hub sites to the Vividwireless PoP which will be located in the Perth IX data centre, HP for core servers, Crown Castle for site acquisition, Aurecon (formerly Connell Wagner) and Daly International for site acquisition, PowerOne for power supplies, cabinets and batteries and Kordia Solutions for site commissioning. Unwired CTO, Eric Hamilton, said negotiations were still continuing with companies to build out the 150 cell sites and 15 hub sites.

Vividwireless has been set up to market services and support customers on the network, which will be built and operated by Unwired. Unwired is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seven Network and Vividwireless a wholly-owned subsidiary of Unwired, an ownership structure that was not made clear when Seven unveiled plans for the WiMAX network rollout early in September.


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Spence said that, prior to choosing Huawei as the WiMAX supplier, the company had looked at 13 possible vendors. "We knocked that down to five: Nortel, Alcatel, Motorola, Cisco and Huawei. Then down to three. Nortel shot themselves in the foot, Alcatel sent out mixed signals. We are very close to Cisco and remain very close to them. Our Navini network is very robust and is providing all the cash that is paying the staff working on the Vividwireless project."

Unwired CTO, Eric Hamilton said: "Huawei far outperformed any other technology we tested at the time and we are very confident of the quality of the technology we will be receiving from Huawei."

Cisco bought Navini, supplier of Unwired's current pre WiMAX technology, in 2007 and in addition to missing out on the wireless component of the Vividwireless network seems to have been unable to leverage its relationship with Unwired to secure the router contract, which went to Juniper.

Juniper will supply its MX240 core routers, J2350 edge routers for the wireless sites, EX3200 and SRX240 firewall and security appliance. According to Juniper Networks' Alex Krawchuk, a key advantage is that all these different pieces of equipment run the same Junos operating system, reducing operating and management costs significantly (by up to 41 percent according to Frost & Sullivan estimates).

Krawchuk added: "Both core and edge routers support MPLS layer 2 or layer 3 services giving Unwired flexibility." According to Hamilton the WiMAX standard supports five levels of QoS which will be critical for supporting voice as there is no equivalent of circuit switched voice in packet networks. He said this would be an issue for LTE network operators. However, the VoLGA Forum is aiming to solve this problem.

The base stations Huawei is supplying are built using software defined radio technology - which means, according to Peter Rossi, CTO of Huawei Australia, that they can support HSPA and LTE services just as easily as WiMAX. "The single RAN [radio access network] has put us way ahead of the competition...That is really good for our customers. It means you save space and it will be green... I can distribute my base station. A hub and a satellite you can distribute functions and keep power consumption down." The Vividwireless network will have 150 wireless base stations sites and just 15 hub sites.


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According to Unwired's manager regulatory & corporate affairs, David Havyatt, Huawei's ability to support LTE from the same equipment that supports WiMAX puts Unwired in the interesting position of being better positioned to offer LTE services than any of the three mobile network operators.

"Deploying WiMAX does not rule out deploying LTE in the future. We would definitely find it easier to deploy LTE than any other operators. We don't have that as a plan, but it would be very easy for us to deploy LTE."

This could happen if LTE is deployed widely by other operators and becomes popular driving down the cost of terminal equipment while WiMAX languishes. However Unwired's stated game plan is to evolve its network to 802.16m. Spence said "We wanted a platform that takes us up to full mobility what we call 802.16m. That is still a year or two away."

802.16m promises data rates of up to 1Gbps. This - and not 802.16e as Unwired and others regularly claim - will be a true 4G technology. However, standardisation is at least two years away and, if the history of 802.16e standardisation and product development is repeated, it will be several years beyond that before it becomes a commercial reality.

Unwired also claims to be significantly reducing rollout costs with its choice of PowerOne for power supplies, cabinets and batteries, According to Hamilton, at 200kgs the size and mass of these is such that they can be manhandled into lifts and into place without needing to hire cranes to lift them onto to rooftops.

Meanwhile Unwired's wireless networks in Sydney based on proprietary Navini technology continue to be the cash cow that funds the rollout of the Vividwireless network.

The last time Unwired gave any numbers for its subscribers in Sydney and Melbourne was July 2007 when it had about 77,000 subscribers. Spence won't update that figure other than to say: "it is down a bit" adding "it is remarkably resilient...It is the cash cow that is paying all our salaries."

And that salary bill has grown substantially in recent months. Spence said that Vividwireless had 22 staff in Perth and that, in Sydney, Unwired had recently hired an additional 20 to support the Vividwireless rollout.

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