Woosh to roll out wireless voice service

Woosh Wireless in New Zealand has begun a pilot offering voice services on its wireless infrastructure and plans to launch a commercial service in the very near future.

Chief executive Bob Smith and COO Rich Cane told a press conference in Auckland yesterday that the company has added another 5,000 customers to its base, hitting the 15,000 customer mark, and now has more than 100 cell sites in the Auckland region alone.

The company is also looking further afield and is acquiring sites in other locations around the country.

"We're actively looking and we are acquiring sites, yes," Smith says.

The voice trial comes after more than a year of waiting as Woosh has battled technical difficulties and an ongoing problem with latency. However Cane says the work Woosh has undertaken has been "ground breaking".

"You look around the world, you won't find many companies offering VoIP over a wireless network," he says.

Yet Cane says Woosh is currently stress testing and ironing out a few "minor issues" before a full trial commences. "We've been using it internally for a couple of months now and we'll have a friendly trial up and running shortly."

After that, Cane says, Woosh will roll out voice in a staged manner, albeit a quick one.

"It won't take forever. We're not talking about having to physically change the network or anything, so we'll roll out the service, reassess and then roll out to the next location as rapidly as possible."

Woosh is also upgrading its network to offer faster download speeds on its broadband network. Woosh uses wideband CDMA (W-CDMA) and will introduce the HSDPA (high speed download packet access) overlay by the end of the year.

"HSDPA consists of several different elements and one of those has to do with supporting different types of modulation. That's what we're rolling out," Cane says.

With an increased network capacity, Woosh will be able to offer higher speed plans in the future, he says.

"That's not to say we couldn't offer those plans today. We have the capability right now to offer faster plans but that's a business decision, not a technical limitation of our network."

Woosh's technology vendor, IPWireless, will be releasing an upgrade to its software that includes a better upload service, known as Advanced Multi User Detection (AMUD).

"AMUD gives us reduced interference on the uplink side so that will increase our throughput there," Cane says.

Woosh currently offers a 250kbit/s downstream and 150kbit/s upstream service. Cane expects to offer a 500kbit/s download service and then later a 1Mbit/s service.

"We could look at a 2Mbit/s plan but really that would be a burstable plan, not a sustained throughput plan. I think a 1Mbit/s plan that is sustainable would be just as effective from a customer point of view."

Users will need to buy new modems, however, to take advantage of faster download speeds, Cane says.

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