Optical/IP Networks

Optus Jumps on Wireless BB

Australian carrier Optus Administration Pty. Ltd. has been hit with the wireless broadband bug, trialing kit from the likes of Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) and IPWireless Inc., cozying up with ArrayComm Inc., and eyeing a potential deal involving Navini Networks Inc.

In December last year, Australia’s second largest cellular carrier announced plans to launch a small trial network based on UMTS-TDD technology from IPWireless and its reseller partner, UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSIE). (See Optus Trials Wireless B'band and UTStarcom, IPWireless Team.) Initial plans involved the deployment of a single base station in the Sydney suburb of Belmore from February 2005, targeting the consumer market.

Earlier this month the carrier stated it will also target business customers with a “base station to be deployed in the Gold Coast, Queensland.” Optus is to deploy kit from Alvarion, through its reseller partner Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE). (See Optus Trials Siemens and Siemens Chooses Alvarion.) The trial will “begin in mid-2005 and is expected to last six months.”

Optus has now stepped up a gear, yesterday announcing a partnership with rival service provider Personal Broadband Australia Pty. Ltd. (PBA). Optus will resell PBA’s offering to its own corporate customer base (see Optus Leans on iBurst).

PBA deploys the iBurst service from ArrayComm Inc., providing coverage in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, and Sydney (see iBurst Launches in Oz). PBA also owns spectrum in Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, and Perth, aiming to provide eventual coverage to 95 percent of Australia’s business population.

Meanwhile, Optus is also in talks with Unwired Australia Pty. Ltd. regarding a similar partnership. Unwired Australia has confirmed it is in negotiations with Optus, involving “the rollout of wireless broadband across Australia using Unwired’s network and product and Optus infrastructure.” (See Unwired Confirms Optus Talks.)

Unwired currently provides fixed-wireless access services in the Sydney central business district, deploying kit from Navini Networks Inc. (see Navini Talks Up Unwired Success).

Optus was unavailable for comment at press time. Last month the carrier switched on its first 3G service in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, based on W-CDMA technology (see Optus Launches 3G). A full commercial launch is expected later this year, using kit from Finnish vendor Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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