Radiowave telephony technology received a boost on Tuesday with the launch of a new high speed voice and data service in several major US cities.
But while the technology being used by Teligent for its Digital Smartwave service has advantages over other fixed wireless systems, major problems that have plagued other providers of the technology, such as the UK's Ionica, remain.
Fixed wireless technology allows operators to establish new local telephone networks at lower cost than wireline networks. Customers' phone calls are transmitted to the local telephone exchange via radio antennae on the outside of their buildings.
Teligent is using Nortel Networks' Reunion fixed wireless products for the service, under a $780 million deal signed last November. Reunion is aimed at small to medium-sized businesses, providing data transfer rates of up to 155Mbps, and allowing a high number of simultaneous users.
Small and medium-sized business customers in the first 10 US cities being targeted by Teligent - including New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC - are being offered local and long distance voice, high speed data and Internet access at 30 per cent less than their current providers are charging.
However, the system requires a clear line of sight between the customer and the local base station, and cannot pass through obstructing buildings. This is inevitably going to cause problems in cities such as New York, said Andrew Shorrock, senior European marketing manager for broadband wireless at Nortel Networks.
"In a city like New York, it is much more difficult - [customers] will have to focus on building [antennae] at the rooftop level, and drop the service down to different levels in the building," said Shorrock.
But the problems associated with the technology were brought to light again by the suspension yesterday of shares in Ionica. The operator has struggled to make money from its wireless service in the UK and is now looking for an investor to rescue the company.
Ionica uses a lower bandwidth fixed wireless technology - again developed by Nortel Networks - to offer telephony to residential customers in central England. Atlantic Telecom also offers fixed wireless telephony in Glasgow and Aberdeen.
The first high bandwidth fixed wireless service in Europe using Nortel Networks' Reunion system could appear in the middle of next year, according to Shorrock. A service is being trialled in the Netherlands by Dutch company Versatel. No trials are underway in the UK, Shorrock said.
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