The home of the Bard, Stratford-upon-Avon, is getting the latest in broadband wireless technology, courtesy of Internet service provider Pipex. Pipex said this week it has launched a trial of WiMax technology from Airspan in Stratford, designed to test IP telephony and standard broadband services.
The six-month trial has begun already, and will rely on Pipex's licensed spectrum. WiMax works with both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, but the use of licensed spectrum may mean less interference.
WiMax is designed to standardise and build upon existing wireless broadband technologies, theoretically resulting in cheap, ubiquitous and compatible gear - the type of equipment that has made Wi-Fi so inexpensive and popular. The first generation of WiMax gear, based on the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, is finally making its way into products and services this year, after delays.
Current WiMax gear only works with stationary devices such as desktops, but will be followed by 802.16e, designed to put WiMax into mobile devices such as laptops and handsets. Companies such as Airspan are in the midst of switching their proprietary wireless broadband systems over to WiMax compatibility. Most, including Airspan, have promised simple, software-based upgrades to 802.16e when it arrives - though industry experts have viewed such claims with scepticism.
Airspan will be deploying WiMax kit simple enough for users to install themselves, according to Airspan chief operating officer Jonathan Paget. The company plans to add Wi-Fi into the equation as well, allowing the delivery of IP telephony services to mobile devices such as laptops and handsets.
Airspan and Pipex will be examining end user interest in wireless broadband data and voice services and carrying out radio performance measurements designed to give an idea of WiMax's long-term stability and availability.
The initial trial will make use of Airspan's indoor WiMax device. Future trial phases will look at delivery of WiMax directly to laptop cards and handheld devices - though the companies said they don't yet have a timeframe for these more ambitious plans.
The Stratford trial is the UK's second involving WiMax, but the first to use standards-based equipment.
A city-wide WiMax trial was launched in Canterbury in June, ahead of an anticipated commercial launch in September, but this involved pre-standard WiMax kit. The trial, following on from a pilot that began in January, is a collaboration between Telabria and the University of Kent.
The Canterbury trial tested aspects of WiMax including licensed and licence-exempt frequency bands, antenna configurations, network capacity and routing protocols, quality of service techniques and the inter-operability of different vendors' pre-WiMax hardware, according to Telabria.