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Speakeasy Maxes in Seattle

Broadband service provider Speakeasy Inc. will next month commercially launch its fixed-wireless network based on 802.16d technology.

In November last year the company announced it was trialing "pre-WiMax" kit in Seattle in an attempt to gauge customer demand and technical performance (see Speakeasy Trials WiMax).

Six months later and Speakeasy is set to hit the on switch, targeting the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market. “We will go live in early June,” says president and CEO Bruce Chatterley. “In the downtown core of Seattle there are 30,000 businesses. It’s about 5 to 6,000 businesses that are really solid targets for us... It’s an area of about five miles square.”

Equipment supplier Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR) is the vendor of choice (see Alvarion Unwires Speakeasy). “It’s pre-WiMax gear, of course,” notes Chatterley. “In the eyes of the customer they will see exactly the same service as when full WiMax gear is available. We have deployed a full non-line-of-sight OFDM-based network that gives any business in the downtown core access to multi-megabit broadband services.”

Chatterley touts total connection speeds up to 6 Mbit/s, with monthly tariffs starting at $500 for a 3-Mbit/s total bandwidth connection and $800 for the 6-Mbit/s service. “We are seeing in the SME market a really intense demand for services above a T1 network and below a DS3 [45 Mbit/s]. We have customers receiving 1.5 Mbit/s on a T1 that need 3 or 6 Mbit/s, and there is no real product for them, on the whole. One of the objectives of our WiMax deployment is to solve that problem for customers.”

Speakeasy plans to launch similar networks in other U.S. cities (see Speakeasy Plots WiMax Move). “Seattle gives us the opportunity to learn the economics, customer takeup rate, quality, reliability, technology limitation, and upside. Based on that, we will then begin to deploy in other markets. It will probably be four to six months before we are really in a position to aggressively deploy in further markets.”

Founded in 1995 as one of the world’s first Internet cafes, the Seattle-based company has raised approximately $50 million in funding from the likes of 3i Group plc, BV Capital, and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). Speakeasy claims “over $62 million recurring revenue,” a headcount of 200, and “over 12,000 business customers and steady home service growth.”

— Justin Springham, Senior Editor, Europe, Unstrung

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