Unproven 3G gear no worry: Walker

The fact that Walker Wireless's new broadband wireless internet technology has yet to be commercially rolled out anywhere in the world doesn't faze managing director Bob Smith.

The fact that Walker Wireless’s new broadband wireless internet technology has yet to be commercially rolled out anywhere in the world doesn’t faze managing director Bob Smith.

Walker has selected UMTS TD-CDMA as the technology to drive the rollout of its new broadband wireless internet service next year.

The 3G technology was chosen in place of MMDS, which Walker ditched earlier this year.

Smith says UMTS TD-CDMA (universal mobile telecommunications service time division-code division multiple access), which will be provided by California-based IPWireless, is being assessed by some “large operators” in the US, though he says he can’t name them as they haven’t made their assessments public.

“They have large teams of people looking at it,” he says.

The technology has also been extensively field-tested, says Smith. “We’ve obviously seen the technology working ourselves and have extensively reviewed what they’re claiming in terms of performance and have had independent people assess it.”

Another clincher for Walker was that UMTS is an open standard. “The standard is in existence, whereas a number of others being proposed haven’t been accepted.” Also, MMDS (multimedia multichannel distribution system) requires line of sight links between transmission sites while and UMTS TD-CDMA doesn’t.

Walker plans to have the service operating in April and will join Canadian firm Craig Wireless as one of the first providers in the world to use UMTS TD-CDMA. Craig is planning a service in Vancouver in Q2, 2002.

IPWireless’s website claims the technology can deliver data at 9Mbit/s; that is, 6Mbit/s downstream and 3Mbit/s up.

Walker is seeking $30 million from “strategic and private investors” to fund the deployment of the service and to sell it to New Zealand broadband consumers, Smith says. “We’ve spoken to a number of parties both in New Zealand and overseas.”

The service will operate under the IMT-2000 designation in the 2053 —2082MHz frequency which Walker bought at national spectrum auctions earlier this year.

Contact was first made with IPWireless at a telco conference in Boston earlier this year, Smith says, and the companies “have been talking since June”.

“It became more and more obvious that [UMTS TD-CDMA] was the way to go.”

IPWireless’ technology chief, Roger Quayle, is a New Zealander, which made Walker’s discussions with the company “easier”, Smith says.

Walker claims the service will be cheaper than other broadband technologies, will be easily portable for customers and that the broadband modem required will be able to run a LAN.

Walker’s change of heart on MMDS allegedly resulted in a third of the company’s then-60 staff losing their jobs, a figure Smith describes as “approximately right”.

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