Liberty takes wireless alternative

National Business review publisher Liberty Press Group has undertaken a second new media foray in taking a 'major stake' in the wireless communications company Alternative Futures.

National Business review publisher Liberty Press Group has undertaken a second new media foray in taking a "major stake" in the wireless communications company Alternative Futures.

NBR killed off the Website it launched in late 1996 in June of this year, at the time promising a move into "a new phase of electronic publishing" focused on "more direct forms of electronic information sales."

NBR publisher Barry Colman was unavailable for comment yesterday but said in a statement that the lesson learned from the Web foray was that "for NBR, the Internet site model didn't have any future. The culture on the Net was such that people wanted information for free and that meant that a site model was incompatible with our business objectives.

"But people are still hungry for timely, useful business information, and the transfer of information. Business relies on the flow of quality information and this is exactly what Alternative Futures is tailor-made to do - with incredible speed and cost efficiency. To that extent, I believe we have achieved a strategic point of entry to the new wave of the communications revolution."

The hitherto little-known Alternative Futures announced the Liberty investment in its wireless business at the same time as it officially called off its joint venture with the Walker Data Vision subsidiary Walker Wireless. The company is now operating as Wireless Internet Services.

Colman said Alternative Futures had already secured "substantial bandwidth" for its wireless services, but it is not clear whether this means it has moved beyond the 2GHz spread-spectrum technology being used by Walker. This spectrum offers speeds of up to 3Mbit/s with the cost of customer premises equipment running to about $2000 - but it is unlicensed, and hence potentially subject to congestion as other operators come in.

Alternative Futures now says it is "upping the ante on competitors by providing more than four times the speed of data flow across its network than that available from its former joint venture partner."

Alternative Futures' wireless internet general manager, Russell Kerr said in a statement that his company and Walker had struck "irreconcilable differences" over the application of their operating agreement.

Kerr said that although his company provided Walker with "substantial intellectual and technology application support fundamental to establishing a wireless service in Auckland, it became apparent that Walker considered the market to be its own.

"Simply, we consider Walker has defaulted on the agreement, and having now made its intentions very clear, we will attend to the security and services needs of our own wireless network clients around the country.

"That means applying our own technology developments to our own network only, and using these to provide our clients not just with a faster and superior wireless internet communications service, but a more comprehensive range of communications options and services."

Kerr said the company's Auckland network was now 92% complete letting it provide linkage into key commercial and industrial areas "blind" to traditional broadcast points. A service for four customers in Christchurch would be operating by early next year.

Colman said Alternative Futures had earmarked a further $15 million for technology development and services expansion over the next 18 months, part of which would include the provision of business to business communications, where the resource of National Business Review would feature.

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