Libera Liberates London

U.K. service provider Libera plc is gearing up for the London launch of its wireless broadband network amid plans to expand into Europe.

In November last year, Unstrung revealed that the startup has undergone a major shift in market strategy and is now targeting the nascent 802.16 sector (see Services Startup Ditches Alvarion). Libera is providing 5.8GHz services aimed at the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) market, and has already launched a commercial network in Bristol, a city in the southwest of Britain with a population of almost 400,000, using ‘pre-WiMax’ kit from Aperto Networks.

Libera now aims to launch services in London next month. “The first phase covers central London, and we hope to go live by the end of June or early July,” says CEO Robert Condon. “The second phase will cover greater London, within the M25 [orbital motorway], by the end of the year.”

Condon claims the service offers average downlink speeds of 2.5 Mbit/s and “bursts of 5 Mbit/s.” Tariffs are set at £295 (US$539) per month.

The CEO certainly has high hopes for the service and is eyeing an eventual national rollout. “We want to reach 75 percent coverage of business sites by end 2007, and we want to connect over 10,000 business customers by end 2008… We aim to be the U.K.’s first national WiMax network.”

Libera also has its sights set on European deployments. “We have put together a business development team in Europe and opened an office.”

In addition to Aperto, Libera will deploy equipment from another equipment supplier and will upgrade both offerings to 802.16-compliant kit sometime next year. “We are dual-sourcing,” says Condon. “We are going to introduce another supplier that will probably be Alvarion. We are also testing Redline and DragonWave for point-to-point systems.”

Founded in August 2003, Libera has recently raised a second round of funding. Condon declines to divulge details but states the company “probably won’t need further funding for the next 12 months.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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