Catapulted into broadband wireless
1 April 2005 | 0
From the shaky lethargic start that was our rollout of high speed Internet connection, Ireland has finally been catapulted into the wireless broadband age. Wireless operators have seized the opportunity to offer a service to the home and business consumer that is ten times faster than DSL and available to any location that is within line-of-sight of a receiver.
One such company offering wireless broadband to large business users is the DCM Group (www.dcmgroup.com). DCM has been selling telephone systems and networking products since 1978 and the company currently offers wireless broadband over the Citywest area. ‘The typical installation would be used for linking buildings,’ says Paul Carolan, networks account manager. DCM provides Internet access using a base station situated within City West: ‘we can offer a range of wireless access starting from 256Kbit/s for EUR6000 a year, 512Kbit/s for EUR9,000, 1Mbit/s for EUR15,2000, and 2Mbit/s for EUR22,400 with installation for each service costing EUR1000,’ says Carolan. The basic connection hardware consists of an aerial on the roof and cable into the building. However, as with most wireless broadband offerings the client has to be within line-of-sight of the receiver.
Another vocal player in the wireless broadband market has been Leap Broadband (www.leap.ie) whose CEO, Charlie Ardagh, has criticised the telecoms regulator in the past for removing the barrier to entry to the wireless broadband market.
Leap offers a fixed wireless point-to-point symmetric service which means that upload times are as fast as download times. Aimed at the business user, Leap’s offering comes in four flavours — Business 1, 2, 3, and premium. All the business broadband services offer speeds of up to 1Mbit/s while the premium service offers 2Mbit/s. Installation is a flat EUR299 for all services. The least expensive product is the Business 1 product, which has a contention rate of 20/1 and costs EUR199 per month; there is no support service included at this price. The next level up is the Business 2 service which has an 8/1 contention rate. The Business 2 package, costing EUR249 per month, includes a service level agreement of 24/7 offering helpdesk support and the availability of an engineer within working hours. For EUR299 per month you can get the Business 3 service with 4/1 contention rate and, again, a service level agreement. The premium service offers the fastest speed of 2Mbit/s, has an 8/1 contention rate and costs EUR599 per month.
Installation of the 8×8 antennae and cabling can be fulfilled within ten working days of receiving an order. Leap Broadband has four receivers across Dublin and customers need to be within line-of-sight of one of these central receivers. Ardagh argues that Leap’s wireless broadband ‘represents good value because it includes services such as mail relay, which backs up your mail if your server goes down; Website hosting; and static IP addresses at no extra cost’.
Another player in the wireless broadband market is Digiweb (www.digiweb.ie) with two offerings — satellite and standard fixed wireless. The satellite offering is a two way satellite connection which requires no phone lines but just a clear view of the southern sky. The service is available nationwide for a fixed monthly fee of EUR99, although this can be reduced to EUR84 for 12 months advance payment. Equipment purchase costs are EUR795 which will buy you a satellite dish and modem; modem and dish installation costs EUR349.
Managing director, Colm Piercy says that customers for this service are typically teleworkers or SMEs who might have previously had ISDN with bills of anything from EUR100 to EUR400 per month. Piercy also said that Digiweb is offering the service to schools with a billing structure to suit the academic year: ‘schools need fixed costs and we can provide that through a flexible billing structure which allows them to spread the cost of the service over the academic year’. Speeds are somewhat limited at download times of 512 Kbits/s and with up load at 128Kbit/s.
Digiweb has also rolled out their standard fixed wireless broadband service to the north east region in a pilot project. Currently the service is being offered in Dundalk, but Digiweb plans to launch the service in Drogheda, Ardee, Dunleer, Blackrock, Navan, Trim and Knockbridge.
The broadband service is offered to both home and business users. The home user package has two connection speeds of 512Kbit/s which costs EUR45 per month and 1Mbit/s for a monthly fee of EUR89. The connection charge is EUR199.
Digiweb’s offer to the business community consists of three different levels. At the entry level, connection is 512Kbit/s costing EUR99 per month. The next level, Business Plus costs EUR169 per month and will connect your business at 1Mbit/s, while Business Pro will connect at 2Mbit/s and will cost EUR369 per month. Connection fees for the Business and Business Plus services are EUR299 while connection to the Business Pro service will cost EUR489. Digiweb also offers Webhosting and e-mail addresses as part of their packages.
Sigma Wireless Communication (www.sigma.ie) which was formed through a management buy-out of Motorola’s marketing and distribution business in 1991, is dipping its toes into the wireless broadband market through a recently launched pilot project in Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, which will implement fixed-wireless Internet hardware. The connections are designed to provide the local business community with Internet connections that range in speed from 256Kbit/s to 2Mbit/s. Sigma is paying for the cost of the trial which will be provided free of charge, excluding a deposit on the equipment, to the eight to ten local business involved in the project. The objective of the project is to provide a wireless broadband solution to an area of the country that doesn’t have DSL or fibre optic network infrastructure.
Sigma hopes its investment in the project will bring long term gains: ‘we aim to be the premier supplier of fixed wireless broadband in Ireland,’ says Shane Meegan, project manager for the trial which uses Canopy Wireless equipment from Motorola.
On the other end of the scale is Irishwisp (www.irishwisp.net) offering services from its wireless transmitter on Three Rock mountain in Dublin to consumers and business within the Sandyford, Leopardstown, Balinteer area. Irishwisp offers a 512Kbit/s connection for EUR49 per month (if you pay six months in advance) for home users and have recently launched a 256Kbit/s service for EUR35 a month. Connection fees come in at around EUR260 which includes installation of the required antennae, but this price is for a single user. If more than one computer is connected, Irishwisp uses a wireless to ethernet converter at an additional installation cost of EUR100. Obviously aimed at the home user or teleworker, the offer is competitive although limited to one geographical area. Although without contention rate, managing director and founder Karl Martini says that they offer ‘a guaranteed download policy of up to speeds of 450Kbit/s for 80 per cent of time and it will never to drop below 150Kbit/s’.
A new company to the market is Irish Broadband (www.irishbroadband.ie), a subsidiary of NTR and was officially launched on May 8th. The company offers 1024 Kbit/s connectivity to business users for EUR250 per month and 512Kbit/s connectivity for EUR135 per month, installation costs stand at EUR365. For the consumer, monthly service costs EUR40 per month with installation costs ranging from EUR215 to EUR265.
Irish broadband is the first company to introduce guaranteed broadband connection speeds, effectively offering wireless leased line equivalent quality at DSL prices. Irish Broadband customers will only share the service with between 4-8 other users as compared to DSL connections which are shared between 24 and 48 other users. The company has installed receivers in Donnybrook, Three Rock, Sandyford, Tallaght, Blackrock, The Guinness Storehouse and Fitzwilliam Square, with further rollout in North Dublin and surrounding counties expected in the coming months.
Managing director, Paul Doody says Irish Broadband is concentrating on the small to medium sized enterprise (SME) market: ‘we expect a massive demand for wireless broadband from SMEs because it can influence a business at such a small price’. Doody explains that the cost of manufacturing the Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) has come down because it is being produced by large scale manufacturers. Irish Broadband is planning to role out its service to Cork within three months and limerick within six months, and has plans to bid on two wireless licenses in the UK in June. Doody is even philosophical about competition within the wireless broadband market saying, ‘we don’t really see competition as a barrier to the market; we believe that it helps to educate the market which is a positive factor’.
Another variant of wireless broadband is from a recently launched Dublin based company, Airspeed (www.airspeed.ie), which employs microwave and wireless systems. The company was set up by former eircom.net and indigo.ie managers and differentiates itself from the rest of the market by offering Internet access via microwave technology. Managing director, Liam O’Kelly says using this licensed band width means that the Airspeed’s clients don’t have to share their connection with anyone else. ‘We looked at the market and saw a gap in non-contended leased line,’ says O’Kelly. Airspeed’s service currently covers an arc shaped area from Citywest to Blackrock via Three Rock. Connection speeds vary from 64Kbit/s to 155Mbit/s and Airspeed can provide a 2Mbit/s leased line at roughly 50 per cent of the cost that Eircom can. ‘We are focusing on the business market but hope to roll the service out to consumers in the near future,’ says O’Kelly.
A company set up in the last few months to address the issue of broadband delivery to rural areas is GV Distribution, which is currently recruiting partners to help sell and support its services throughout the country. It will provide access via satellite at speeds of 2Mbit/s for download and 512Mbit/s for upload for a cost of about EUR130 per month.
As the wireless broadband market opens up and competition increases, customers can expect to benefit from cheaper prices and, together with better accessibility to services than wire-based services, wireless broadband is set to become the de facto for Internet connection.