A wireless broadband service launched early this year in the outlying areas of Wellington is about to be extended to Porirua and the Wairarapa.
Operating at 10Mbit/sec, Araneo is capable of transmitting more data than anything but fibre.
“The idea was to extend the Citylink model into outlying areas but with more intelligent equipment,” says Jonathan Brewer, who set up Araneo Wireless Solutions late last year. The first customers went live in January.
“Every node is a full-blown router with ethernet and wireless cards. They’re all peer routers with no master-slave relationship.
Brewer came to New Zealand a year ago to do a Masters degree in information management at Victoria University. He had been working in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he became familiar with the Roofnet wireless scheme set up at MIT, which forms the basis for Araneo.
“It’s very, very different from a large infrastructure network,” he says. “It follows Metcalfe’s law where the power of the network increases by the square of the number of nodes.
“We’re not using 2.4HGz 802.11b. We’re using radio in the 4.9 to 6GHz spectrum licensed and unlicensed spectrum. That means we can move a lot more data because of the higher carrying capacity.”
The network currently covers the Wellington CBD and extends up the Hutt Valley to the tower at Avalon. There are nodes in Petone and Lower Hutt.
Brewer says Araneo has been invited into Porirua by the city council there and will have the network operational in that area within four to six weeks.
“We’ve also just signed a contract with an ISP to expand into the Wairarapa via Masterton.” That will be serviced via a special antenna from the roof of Radio New Zealand House in Wellington.
Araeno currently has 12 live customers, which includes three ISPs: Globenet, DTS and eCentric.
It will also provide services for T-Up, the former VicLink, which is an incubator of 20 small businesses based in Wellington’s botanic gardens.
Brewer is a big fan of Citylink, which he describes as “probably tops in the world in terms of a metro network”. “I try not to compete with them. The real difference is that I’m going places where fibre isn’t.”
That said, Araneo’s minimum link cost is $200 per month, plus ISP fees, compared to Citylink’s $300 a month.
It’s quite a punt for Brewer, who spends his days establishing Araneo –“I’m either in the office or on top of a building” – and nights completing his Masters. He has funded the start-up from his own pocket but expects to go to the market for additional capital within about six months.
He and his Polish-born wife chose to move to New Zealand because they weren’t comfortable with the political situation in both the US and Europe. He had worked in the US for Pfizer as a database designer but on arrival in New Zealand saw a commercial opportunity for a wireless network.