Monday, April 17, 2006

A tale of two uses...Fixed Wireless Access

Having experienced two extremes recently it got me thinking about Fixed Wireless Access.

Not so many months ago I finally got my PSTN service connected to my house in Bangkok. This was after almost one year of waiting for someone to either cancel their service or for one of the two main providers to install more hardware to expand capacity. As you can imagine both scenarios are extremely unlikely and if a circuit did become available it was not guaranteed to be close enough to have good performance on ADSL service piggy backing on the same line.

So that's scenario 1: massive population with little incentive by the operators to expand and invest in copper wire.

Scenario 2: just go back from a two week holiday in New Zealand, awesome place, and scattered townships of small populations separated by hundreds of kilometers of scenery. Very nice for the camera, not so good for the telco.

Having said that NZ Telecom have made substantial investments in both wired and wireless access. I can use my phone most of the way up the Tongariro Volcano and all of the way into the Mount Cook National Park. All very commendable but is it sustainable.

No I'm sure that in their planning NZ Telecom have planned for network expansion and so there will be spare capacity on the drop points; but....

There is a large transient community in NZ based in camper vans, mostly foreigners but also locals. This got me thinking about a use to Fixed Wireless Access. Let's say that each community (or for the larger towns each sub-community) had a cell for fixed wireless. This was tried in the UK in the mid 90's by Ionica but they got their demographic a bit wrong so they folded. Now I can connect new homes very quickly by expanding the cell's footprint without laying large amounts of cable. I could also, in theory, add transceivers to the camper vans so they can connect to the PSTN network whilst based in the community.

The first scenario lends itself to the model as ongoing investment would be reduced as capacity grows in the cell. I don't need to make the already bad roads worse with more tarmac patches as I lay more copper in the group or string yet more cables from the already overloaded street poles (any visitors to Bangkok will understand what I'm talking about).

I guess the question mark for Bangkok would be how sensitive the system is to rain fall. In a country that has a 6 to 8 month rainy season more often than not the UBC Digital Satellite service suffers from signal loss in the rain, not a great solution as you can imagine. While you're at throw some WiMax hardware on those cell towers and feed me IPTV :)

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