Users to see 3G wireless by June

Walker Wireless says its trials of California-based IPWireless' third-generation technology are proceeding well and the first customers will get their hands on the technology by June.

Walker Wireless says its trials of California-based IPWireless’ third-generation technology are proceeding well and the first customers will get their hands on the technology by June.

Alan Leigh, sales and marketing general manager for the wireless network provider, says it’s currently testing an IPWireless UMTS TD-CDMA unit “in an R&D environment” and will begin non-research trials late April or early May. There will be a further set in June “involving the service being delivered to customers”. That trial should run until August, assuming all goes well, with the full rollout to begin then. “We’re very happy with the way things are going so far,” says Leigh.

The visit to New Zealand of IPWireless co-founder and expat New Zealander Roger Quayle last week to speak at the Technology Investment Forum in Auckland provided further opportunities to fine-tune the technology to Walker’s requirements, Leigh says. “It’s been a good opportunity to go through technical questions.”

Walker Wireless last year switched to UMTS TD-CDMA as the technology for its planned broadband wireless internet service after ditching its original choice, MMDS.

Roger Quayle says IPWireless has several more deals with wireless operators in the wings, including ones in Montana and the Hawaiian island of Maui. “Those are relatively small and obviously we’re putting a lot of effort into [working with] bigger operators.”

The only operator clients he will name, however, are Walker and Canada’s Craig Wireless, which plans to be using the service in the second quarter of this year.

Quayle co-founded IPWireless in 1998 after four years working in California, including a spell with US mobile operator Qualcomm. The privately held company received its final round of a total of $US120 million venture capital in December 2000 and Quayle says it should be profitable by the end of next year.

“We probably won’t need to raise any more money — we’ll break even by the end of 2003.”

He describes UMTS TD-CDMA as “a real paradigm shift in internet access — you can get JetStream-like quality wherever you are.” Access to the service is by way of a wireless modem, supplied by IPWireless.

When IPWireless’ first contact was made with Walker at a telco conference in Boston last year, “New Zealand wasn’t on our radar screen”, Quayle says, but his New Zealand background helped smooth the way for the deal.

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