RoamAD wins Caribbean wi-fi deal

The network will eventually reach 1.17 million homes, or 59%, of the country's urban population, says CEO

New Zealand wireless network builder RoamAD has signed a major deal with the Dominican Republic’s DR Telecom, to deploy wi-fi throughout the Caribbean island nation.

Initially, the 2.4GHz service will cover some ten square kilometres of the capital, Santo Domingo, says Martyn Levy, chief executive of RoamAD. The first section of the network should be ready in February. The remainder of what will be the first phase of the network will be rolled out by June, says Levy. He adds that the network will eventually reach 1.17 million homes, or 59%, of the country’s urban population. As of 2005, the population of the Dominican Republic was just under nine million. The country has a landmass of 48,442sq kms.

The network can deliver end-user speeds of up to 1.5Mbit/s, but most customer plans will be 128, 256 and 512kbit/s, says Levy. Customers can access the network with any wi-fi device, including laptops and PDAs, so long as they have built-in wireless capabilities.

However, in those situations where services such as VoIP and security surveillance/CCTV are required customers will need to use equipment from Ruckus and PepLink to connect to RoamAD’s network, says Levy. This equipment costs around US$70 (NZ$107).

DR Telecom is a privately owned company. The founders come from the telco and cable TV industries, as well as from the data networks business. DR Telecom’s vice president, Felix Rosario, says the founders started the project some three years ago and have been looking for a technology to help them realise the project.

Pricing hasn’t been decided upon yet, says Rosario. But the company is leaning towards a data-volume charging model rather than a time-based one.

Rosario says DR Telecom is aiming for 8.5% residential-market penetration in five years. Presently, telcos in the Dominican Republic require customers to take up voice service with broadband added on top. “[This] is very expensive,” says Rosario.

The total value for the network to cover the capital will be $1 million, says Levy. This will be apportioned equally between hardware and software, with RoamAD getting the software revenue, says Levy. This means the deal should be worth around half-a-million dollars to RoamAD.

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