France Telecom Trials 802.16

France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) is trialling 802.16 technology from three different broadband wireless vendors as a potential ADSL replacement, Unstrung has learned.

The carrier has deployed "pre-WiMax" networks based on the fixed wireless 802.16d standard in the towns of Amilly, Lehon, and La Salvetat, using kit from Redline Communications Inc., Aperto Networks, and Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR), respectively.

The trial in Lehon commenced last year and will end next month, according to Yann Rochefort, project manager of WiMax technology at France Telecom. “We used WiMax as a backhaul to deliver high-speed access to WiFi access points.” The deployment has 32 customers consisting of residential and local government office users.

Trials in Amilly and La Salvetat started “a few weeks ago” and will close at the end of August. Redline’s kit, deployed in Amilly, is being used by 12 enterprise customers, whilst Alvarion’s equipment is being tested by 22 residential customers in La Salvetat.

All three trials have been launched in the 3.5GHz spectrum band.

Rochefort states that no decision has yet been taken on a nationwide commercial launch. “Today we don’t have the frequencies, except for those trials. However, France Telecom’s objective is to offer high-speed networks to all of its customers. The main technology is ADSL, but we are studying all technologies."

The carrier has previously announced its intention to provide broadband coverage to 96 percent of the country’s population by the end of 2005 (see France Telecom Pushes Broadband).

Earlier this month, European incumbent carrier Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) also announced plans to trial 802.16 technology (see DT Preps WiMax Trials). Meanwhile BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is keeping a close eye on development of the WiMax standard (see BT Maxes on Wireless and Carriers Join WiMax Forum).

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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