The Pacific.Net beats out big boys in latest Probe round

While Telecom's consortium with BCL dukes it out with the Woosh/Vodafone team over Project Probe tenders, in Nelson they've both been beaten by local telco The Pacific.Net

While Telecom's consortium with BCL dukes it out with the Woosh/Vodafone team over Project Probe tenders, in Nelson they've both been beaten by local telco The Pacific.Net.

The government has announced the latest four regional tender wins: Telecom has won the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne/Hawkes Bay regions; Woosh Wireless has won Canterbury and The Pacific.Net has taken out the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough region.

The Pacific.Net CEO Steve Christie says the win is great news.

"It's very gratifying to find a local provider being given the change to solve a local problem."

The Pacific.Net was formed as a joint venture between lines company Buller Electricity and local ISP Tasman Solutions. Both were building their own wireless networks and Tasman Solutions was offering a broadband service as far back as 1996 says Christie, who worked with Tasman Solutions at that time.

"We'd reached the point in 2000 where we wanted to expand our wireless service even further but were constrained by the need for more capital. We looked around and found Buller Electricity had built their own wireless network in Westport." The two companies found they could work well together and formed The Pacific.Net which is run from the same building as Tasman Solutions.

"It's a small place, everyone knows everyone else really."

The Pacific.Net's solution is a Wi-Fi based service, however Christie says there are two things that make it unique.

"Firstly we're going to make use of the spectrum government has reserved for Probe winners - the 3.5 GHz spectrum." Wi-Fi typically makes use of the unlicensed spectrum at 2.4 GHz, however because it's unlicensed there is nothing to stop interference from neighbouring services.

The other component is The Pacific.Net's "e-box technology".

"I was quite surprised none of the other bidders were doing this sort of thing," says Christie.

The e-box is basically a PC running Linux which serves as a gateway for all customers of the service.

"It's got a firewall built in and because it's basically a PC it's got enough grunt that we can offer other value-add services in future." The e-boxes are leased to end users rather than sold outright so The Pacific.Net maintains and upgrades them as needs be.

"That means if we move from 2.4 GHz to 3.5 GHz or to fibre or whatever we upgrade the box. The customer doesn't have to do a thing." Christie says the company is currently testing running mail servers on the e-boxes and will look at adding functionality like online calendar capability in future.

The government still has four more regions to announce as well as a satellite service to cover the most remote regions.

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