The trial of a portable wireless broadband technology by Walker Wireless and Vodafone is well under way with 400 trial participants signed up and using the system in the first week and a half, says Walker's general manager of marketing Alan Leigh.
"We had planned to spend three weeks installing the gear, and we thought that was aggressive, but we got it done in half that time."
The trial allows users, ranging from residential customers with a single stand alone PC through to corporations with virtual private networks (VPNs) or wireless LANs (WLAN) to connect to the net at broadband speeds using a relatively small USB-connected modem.
"It's smaller than an iPaq handheld PC and the customers are telling us how much they like its portability and how surprised they are by its capabilities."
The modem connects the user to the network via wideband CDMA (W-CDMA), a non-line-of-sight wireless technology. Speeds are variable for the end user and can be set by the provider according to service levels needed.
"The full service runs at 3MBit/s download, 1MBit/s upload, but of course we tier that depending on what the customer needs."
Residential users, for example, can buy a 128Kbit/s connection, although Leigh stresses this is an average speed, not a maximum as with Telecom's JetStream Starter connection.
The trial will run until at least the middle of December, however Leigh says if all goes well it will immediately become a commercial product for Walker Wireless and pricing is being assessed at the moment.
"Because we can configure the product to different levels we can offer a frame relay-like service for businesses and a JetStream like product for the home user. Our pricing would reflect that."
Leigh is quick to quash rumours that Vodafone is in the market to buy Walker Wireless, saying that while Walker Wireless and Vodafone have a "strong working relationship" there are no talks underway at this stage.
Vodafone is providing half the funding for the $6 million trial run, and Leigh says when the product reaches a commercial stage it will become a reseller of the service.
"It runs on Walker Wireless network and Vodafone would add their service value to that."
Users could expect to see a laptop bundled with GPRS card and Walker Wireless modem, for example.