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Irish Broadband Eyes WiMax

European service provider Irish Broadband plans to launch a nationwide WiMax network this year on the back of an €18 million (US$24 million) investment in the venture.

In January the company announced that NTR plc and Kilsaran Concrete Products Ltd. "participated on a 50:50 basis in the funding," providing Kilsaran with a 28 percent equity stake in Irish Broadband. Irish Broadband is a subsidiary of NTR.

With an initial network launch in Dublin in August 2002, the company now owns 23 fixed wireless licenses throughout Ireland. “We are building out a network that will give us 95 percent coverage of the population,” managing director and co-founder, Paul Doody, tells Unstrung. “To date we have about 75 percent coverage. We operate principally in the 5.7- and 3.5-GHz spectrum. We also have licenses in 10.5.”

Irish Broadband has tapped Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) and Navini Networks Inc. as equipment suppliers (see Irish B'band Picks Alvarion Again and Irish Broadband Picks Navini). “Our split would be about 60:40 in favor of Alvarion in terms of spend to date,” reveals Doody. “That will change going forward though. We are effectively backing two horses.”

Last November, the company announced concrete plans with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) to trial 802.16 technology in Leixlip, a small town 20km from Dublin on the east coast of Ireland, with a population of approximately 15,000.

“This year we are hoping to deploy WiMax services across all of our license areas,” says Doody. “We are deploying [Alvarion’s] BreezeMax equipment along with Intel. Of course we are waiting for WiMax to be ratified, but the equipment we have today is the WiMax of tomorrow. We’ll hopefully stamp it as WiMax before the end of the year.”

To date the company lays claim to “just under 10,000 subscribers” in its battle against fixed broadband incumbent Eircom Ltd. (London: EIR). “Depending on broadband takeup we could end up with a figure of 25 to 50,000 by the end of the year,” adds the optimistic Irishman.

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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