Hardware vendor Moovera has launched a wireless access point that uses 3G or WiMax for backhaul - intended to replace mesh as a solution to the problems of municipal wireless.

"You can't align yourself with any one technology - they all play together to form a complete solution," said Jim Baker, chief executive of Moovera. "That's why we've come out with these gateway products, which create a new hybrid approach that can backhaul over whatever you have in your area - HSDPA, WiMax or something more exotic like TD CDMA. Our mantra is being agnostic about the back haul, because every country is different."

Municipal wireless networks have had a rough few weeks in the US, as Earthlink's bid to build one in San Francisco has "http://www.techworld.com/mobility/news/index.cfm?newsid=9942">fizzled out, as have its plans in Chicago.

"Our technology won't fix a broken business model, and the business models for municipal wireless have been wrong," said Baker, "but it can reduce costs." Moovera spun out from a nascent UK pre-WiMax provider called Telabria that offered wireless broadband using WiMax and Wi-Fi, including a city network in Canterbury. Last year Telabria sold its service provider business to an ISP, and Baker spun the hardware part of Telabria out as Moovera.

"The hardware part of the business is more interesting, because the UK is a challenging market for wireless broadband services to the home and business," said Baker. "People have tried it and I don’t think anyone has made a great success of it." The competition from DSL is too great, and WiMax services have only a small window to take off before HSDPA coverage reduces the opportunity for mobile WiMax, he said.

Moovera produced the Moovbox M, a mobile gateway, at the start of the year, that is in use with customers including National Express and Stagecoach, providing Wi-Fi access on coaches, using 3G for back haul. "In nine months, one bus route from Victoria to Oxford has had 17,000 unique users, visiting 70,000 times and downloading 350GB of data over Vodafone's network," said Baker.

The Moovbox F series, a weatherproof version of the M series product costing £599, will be much simpler to deploy than a mesh network, because 3G and WiMax use licensed spectrum with good propagation. "The majority of mesh networks operate in unlicensed frequencies. They need line-of-sight to get throughput," he said. "Mesh placement is completely dictated by the environment, not the customer. That is wrong."

By contrast, using a service in a licensed band for backhaul means the access point can be placed where it is needed. The extra costs for a licensed radio service are cancelled out by the greatly reduced deployment costs, he said.