Broadband provider, iBurst, has applied to ICASA to extend its WiMAX allocation to 30MHz of frequency spectrum in the 2.6MHz and 3.5MHz ranges. This allocation will be used to support its plans to increase download speeds and to roll out nomadic WiMAX services.

iBurst was one of the first providers in South Africa to launch a commercial WiMAX service. The iBurst WiMAX network went live in 2008 and has since grown to over 200 base stations in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, making it the largest commercial WiMAX network in South Africa. iBurst plans to roll out additional WiMAX base stations over the next year.

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability Microwave Access) is a new generation technology that is a wireless alternative to leased line and ADSL services, and offers connectivity to small, medium and large businesses. iBurst’s current WiMAX solutions are perfect for businesses that want a wireless alternative to ADSL or Diginet at their premises.

Although it is not a portable or mobile solution as it requires the installation of a fixed antenna, businesses are able to choose between a broadband (best effort) and a dedicated (assured) solution to accommodate for a range of applications and requirements. Nomadic WiMAX, by contrast, gives business’ and individuals more freedom to roam within WiMAX network coverage and still enjoy the same level of high-speed Internet access as they do at their office or home. Since it is faster to install at the customer’s premises and uses cheaper embedded equipment (for example, a chip in a notebook), nomadic WiMAX will help iBurst to roll these connectivity services out to more people countrywide. However, the additional 15MHz of spectrum is key in deploying nomadic services.

"The fixed WiMAX offering from iBurst has seen widespread adoption in the parts of South Africa where it is available, giving users a high-speed alternative to fixed-line technologies," said iBurst CEO Jannie Van Zyl. "But provided we are able to secure additional frequency spectrum from ICASA, we will be able to make this technology even more accessible by activating the nomadic version of the WiMAX standard across our network. The network is ready, we are ready. Now we just need the spectrum."

iBurst’s parent company, Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), recently signed a commercial agreement to jointly roll out WiMAX products with international technology giant, Intel. Intel has been a major driver of both Wi-Fi and WiMAX adoption. In terms of the agreement, Intel will embed WiMAX capability within a range of devices while iBurst will provide the connectivity between the devices and iBurst’s WiMAX network. Although the agreement has been signed, the network and WiMAX enabled laptops will only be available later in 2009. Recent compatibility tests conducted with Intel showed that these devices are now ready to be deployed if the spectrum allocation is increased to 30MHz.

Van Zyl said "We believe that nomadic wireless products that bundle hardware and access technologies will help more South Africans to get online. In addition, it will help us to make internet connectivity available wherever and whenever our customers need it. Accessing the spectrum we need to roll out nomadic WiMAX is essential if we are to maximise the potential of this technology."

iBurst was originally issued with 15MHz of WiMAX spectrum by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in July 2006. WiMax implementations across the globe have demonstrated that at least 30MHz of spectrum is required in order to provide end users with the speeds and quality of service which can be achieved on the WiMax technology. Accordingly, WBS is applying for additional spectrum to take it to the 30MHz level. WiMAX is a family of technologies based on the IEEE 802.16 wireless standards with the iBurst network implementing the later 802.16e standard. Most other WiMax networks in South Africa still deploy the older 802.16d standard.

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