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Monday, March 24, 2008

WiMAX may not work

Australia’s first WiMAX operator, Hervey Bay’s Buzz Broadband, has closed its network, with the CEO labeling the technology as a “disaster” that “failed miserably.”

In an astonishing tirade to an international WiMAX conference audience in Bangkok yesterday afternoon, CEO Garth Freeman slammed the technology, saying its non-line of sight performance was “non-existent” beyond just 2 kilometres from the base station, indoor performance decayed at just 400m and that latency rates reached as high as 1000 milliseconds. Poor latency and jitter made it unacceptable for many Internet applications and specifically VoIP, which Buzz has employed as the main selling point to induce people to shed their use of incumbent services.

Freeman highlighted his presentation with a warning to delegates, saying “WiMAX may not work.” He said that the technology was still “mired in opportunistic hype,” pointing to the fact most deployments were still in trials, that it was largely used by start-up carriers and was supported by “second-tier vendors”, which he contrasted with HSPA with 154 commercial networks already in operation and support from top tier vendors.

What made Freeman’s presentation most extraordinary was that just 12 months ago he fronted the same event with a generally positive appraisal of the platform which at that stage he had deployed just a few months before. At the time, Freeman said that his company had signed 10% of its 55,000 user target market in just two months, a market share that rose to 25%, on the back of an advertising campaign that highlighted value VoIP prices.

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