Alvarion Liberates Libera

Wireless broadband startup Libera is to deploy kit from Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) for the rollout of its U.K. network targeted at business customers, Unstrung can reveal.

The service provider this week sneaked out plans to launch a trial wireless broadband network in the Docklands area of London -- a district of eight-and-a-half square miles -- followed by a £7 million (US$12.8 million) rollout across the capital city and an eventual national deployment (see Libera Unwires London).

“We are using kit from Alvarion,” says Libera’s marketing director, Paul Momtahan. “We see them as the leader in this space.”

According to Momtahan, the Docklands trial will use spectrum in the 28GHz band and will offer business customers broadband speeds of “between 1 Mbit/s and 36 Mbit/s.”

“It’s going to go live in July. We will then roll out another 19 base stations to give us Greater London coverage by Q2 next year. We have also acquired spectrum to cover 50 to 60 percent of U.K. businesses. We will then try and raise this to around 75 percent by 2008 by doing it on a piecemeal, town-by-town basis.”

Momtahan estimates the total cost of each base station to be “around £90K [$165,000],” with the full London deployment costing the startup “about £7 million from scratch.”

Libera’s marketing man is less forthcoming on end user tariffs. “The complexity of the pricing, both wholesale and retail, coupled with up to 36 different bandwidth pricing parameters, makes it difficult to give a simple indication. It will be a similar price to DSL, though, and you will get a lot more bandwidth.”

Libera will not be using Alvarion’s “pre-WiMAX” kit launched last week, dubbed BreezeMAX (see Alvarion Breezes Into WiMax). “The WiMAX spectrum is in the lower GHz bands and is targeting a different market.”

Alvarion was unavailable for comment by press time.

Momtahan is also keen to play down any potential threat from rival wireless broadband services, such as PCCW Ltd.'s (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) "Netvigator" offering from local subsidiary UK Broadband (see PCCW Fixes UK Wireless and IPWireless Powers PCCW).

“PCCW are using 3.4GHz and are focusing on the consumer and micro business level. It isn’t direct competition.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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