Intel drops cash for Unwired connectivity, BigPond makes a splash

Wireless broadband carrier Unwired has received a $37 million dollar investment from Intel Capital to push WiMax networks in Australia.

Unwired will use the cash to further expand services to Australian cities including Geelong, Newcastle, the NSW Central Coast, south Western Australia and parts of Adelaide and Perth, amongst others.

Unwired shareholders will meet in October for approval of the investment; however, Unwired is already planning to support Intel products under the forthcoming IEEE 802.16e WiMax standard for wireless use in infrastructure equipment and notebooks.

David Spence, Unwired CEO, said the investment made by Intel Capital will make wireless broadband available to a greater number of Australians, and enable WiMax to be deployed in cities as equipment becomes available.

"The introduction of the upcoming version of WiMax will help mobile wireless broadband become absolutely mainstream in the marketplace," Spence said. "Unwired will be in the unique position of having access to most of the WiMax designated 3.5 GHz and 2.l3 GHz licensed bands in Australia's major metropolitan areas."

Co-director of Intel Capital Asia Pacific, Varun Kapur, said this is a model that service providers around the world could and should try to replicate.

"The upcoming WiMax network will demonstrate how a service provider can deploy standards-based technology across multiple metropolitan areas potentially covering thousands of square kilometres and serving millions of people," Kapur said.

Unwired will initially deploy hardware from Navini Networks for the rollout.

In the first half of 2006, Unwired will roll out dual-mode customer modems and base stations which can operate both Unwired and WiMax-based technology simultaneously.

Meanwhile, BigPond also released a wireless broadband service today for desktop and laptop PC users, claiming wireless download speeds of between 256kbps or 512 kbps, depending on the plan chosen.

The laptop version, which uses a Wireless Mobile Card that switches to Telstra's CDMA1X if out of a broadband coverage area, offers access at speeds of between 80-100kbps spiking to 144kbps.

BigPond managing director Justin Milne said the speed does slow down to around 80-100kbps on the laptop version if out of wireless range, but the user will still stay connected.

Initially, BigPond Wireless Broadband is available across greater Sydney as well as selected areas of all capital cities and the Sunshine Coast.

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