ISP plans wireless Internet access

A high-speed Internet access network based on radio transmission and aimed at home users will soon go into trial in central Auckland.

The Internet Group (Ihug) aims to begin trials of the network, at 64kbit/s, within six weeks. Pricing will be $200 a month for a radio "leased line", which includes rental of receiver equipment. Users who buy their own receivers (at around $2500) can pay a flat $99 a month solely for the Internet access.

Although initial speeds will be 64kbit/s, Ihug spokesman Nick Wood says he hopes to be offering 128kbit/s as a standard by the end of the year, and that the system is scalable to T1 (1.5Mbit/s) standard. Wood says he has received 114 applications to join the trial since announcing it to Ihug customers yesterday.

"We were only looking for 10 to 15 people within a 4km radius of our office in Newton Road," says Wood."But the idea obviously has more appeal than I thought. Some people have already offered to buy the user-end equipment so they can join the trial.

"This system is brand new. It hasn't been used anywhere else and I'd rather not say at the moment where we've sourced it," says Wood. "But this is an idea I've had for a long time. It's just taken a while for the technology to catch up. In theory, this technology can be developed into a 10Mbit version, but with the compression technology available now, I think T1 should be enough for Joe Punter to chuck around video and anything else he wants to do.

"One thing which will be a factor in this is better pricing from telcos, so we're working on that with them at the moment, just seeing who plays ball.

"We're trying to make this service as cheap to the end user as possible. One possibility is that users who want transfer rates much higher than the base rate could pay volume charges on top." The appeal of the radio network appears to be in its flexibility. Wood says the transmission equipment has a range of 20km and could be repeated once, giving a maximum range of 40km. Each "neighbourhood" transmitter has a radius of 4km to 5km and could support around 30 users. Wood acknowledges that it would be viable for a group of users in a single area to collectively request service. "We could throw an arm out to, say, Pakuranga, if there was demand."

Wood doesn't foresee regulatory difficulties with establishing the service. "It's an unlicensed frequency, so council approval should be quite straightforward. It's really just a matter of us finding good transmitter sites to lease."

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