A city wide WiMax trial will be launched in Canterbury next month, ahead of an anticipated commercial launch in September.
The trial, following on from a pilot that began in January, is a collaboration between Telabria and the University of Kent.
It will test 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.
The summer's trials will include tests of IP telephony and wireless video-conferencing as well as data, the company said. Telabria will deploy a Wi-Fi network in the Canterbury city centre for public Internet access, and will test building-to-building connectivity for off-campus student housing. Ultimately Telabria wants to deploy commercial WiMax services throughout the county, the company said.
WiMax, based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, is designed to standardise wireless broadband kit, making for a cheap, interoperable alternative to ADSL, cable broadband and 3G data. The standard can extend broadband wireless to around 48km, and support data transmission speeds up to 70Mbit/s. The WiMax Forum, established in 2001 by a number of industry heavyweights, has been working on standards certification and inter-operability testing.
Current equipment is only suitable for fixed wireless broadband, and some critics have predicted that by the time mobile WiMax becomes available 3G may have already made it redundant. Telabria's pilot so far has sought to change the equation by using a hybrid system to bring down prices.
The pilot used WiMax in the 3.5GHz band for enterprise customers and to extend Telabria's backbone - the company has 400 Wi-Fi hotspots, including 60 at pubs belonging to Faversham's 300-year old Shepherd Neame brewery - and will include 802.11-based links for some end user connections. The company is also targeting businesses in rural areas that would be unlikely to merit adequate 3G coverage, or even ADSL or cable connectivity.
Vendors originally planned to have WiMax-certified gear available by mid-year, but that has now slipped to the end of 2005, Telabria acknowledged. The company is going ahead with pre-certification WiMax kit from Alvarion and others, and will migrate to certified equipment later, said Telabria chief executive Jim Baker.