Updated: vividwireless users reveal network speeds

WiMAX Forum fast-tracks Release 1 upgrades as well as Release 2 certification

Vividwireless users are reporting an average speed of 12.23Mbps from the newly launched 4G ISP.

Subscribers to the Perth-based wireless broadband have tested speeds of the 4G network using various mirror servers on the Oz Broadband Speed Test and collated them on the Whirlpool ISP forum. Speeds ranged from 230 kilobits per second (Kbps) in one case to a peak of 36.78Mbps in another. Of the 90 speed tests collated, users experienced an average speed of 12.23Mbps.

South Australian Internet service provider Adam Internet launched its own WiMAX service last year, AdamMAX, utilising the same 802.16e technology to cover Internet blackspots in Adelaide. The service is artificially limited to 12Mbps downlink and 2Mbps uplink, though an FAQ on Adam Internet's website states that users have experienced speeds of 11Mbps downlink and 1Mbps uplink, depending on their distance from the access point.

Seven Network first launched the vividwireless network in September last year, with the statement: “Customers using our service on a laptop, for example, will enjoy average speeds of +4Mbps and peak speeds in excess of 20mbps – which is up to 10 times faster than those delivered by the existing 3G networks".

The service provider removed the speed claims after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a warning disallowing telcos and service providers from using the phrases "maximum," "up to" or "peak network" in speed measurements.

The Frequently Asked Questions section of the vividwireless website now says the company doesn't "believe in misleading customers about speed".

"We will only ever talk about the actual speeds our customers are experiencing on our network," the FAQ read. "Our network is brand new and we don't yet have enough data to be able to publish the actual speeds our customers are experiencing."

vividwireless' Perth network is made up of 150 802.16e WiMAX base stations covering the majority of the Perth metropolitan area. Each base station covers around 50 kilometres, but there are still several black spots such as some sections of Shenton Park and Carlisle. An interactive map on the vividwireless website reveals plans to improve coverage in the future, but has not yet announced when it will roll out further base stations or when it will expand to other cities.

The WiMAX Forum is planning upgrades to 802.16e WiMAX - also known as Release 1 - which will see an increase in performance of up to 50 percent. However, while the upgrades are backwards compatible with current technology, subscribers may require new hardware.

"With the global demand for 4G wireless broadband services experiencing explosive growth, WiMAX service providers need faster networks with greater capacity and efficiency" said WiMAX Forum president and chairman Ron Resnick in a statement.

WiMAX is generally seen as a mobile wireless broadband technology and pitted against competing wireless technologies like 3G, HSPA and the forthcoming LTE technology. Telstra chief operations officer Michael Rocca has said that LTE is recognised as the dominant next generation technology for mobile networks, and the telco plans to begin local trials of the technology.

However, while WiMAX is being deployed as a mobile wireless broadband alternative in the US and Russia, IDC analyst David Cannon told Computerworld Australia that its success locally would more likely be found as an alternative to fixed line broadband services such as ADSL2+ and fibre services like the National Broadband Network.

"Obviously the 3G network service providers have a far greater footprint [than WiMAX providers]," he said. "So if you're going to buy a mobile broadband solution purely for its mobile capability, you're more than likely not going to go for a WiMAX solution. But as a fixed wireless access product, or as a fixed line replacement, we think that's where it's best opportunity is in the Australian market.

While WiMAX couldn't compete with other fixed services on a speed basis, Cannon said it is likely to attract customers with basic Internet needs.

"These are people whose lives do not revolve around the Internet, and all they want is just the basic access," he said. "They want something that performs sufficiently for the type of need that they have".

"There will continue, even in an NBN environment, to have a need for someone to service those types of people," he said.

vividwireless offers data plans ranging from one gigabyte (GB) of download quota for $20 a month to 40 gigabytes of data for $99 a month. Users can also package a VoIP package with the Internet service. Cannon said that the service provider may even bundle the TiVO video-on-demand service - also operated in Australia by Seven Network - with its WiMAX services.

While the current pricing structure is similar to that offered by 3G mobile broadband providers, it is significantly more expensive than many ADSL2+ packages, against which it is competing. However, Cannon said "the market is moving quite quickly in a downwards manner. A week is a long time in the mobile broadband world."

vividwireless, formerly Unwired, offers wireless broadband services in Sydney and Melbourne with claimed speeds of up to one megabit per second. However, it only operates the 802.16e WiMAX services in Perth.

The WiMAX Forum also announced it has fast-tracked certification of 802.16m WiMAX Release 2, with the first devices expected by 2012. According to the WiMAX Forum vice president Mohammad Shakouri, the newer technology will deliver downlink speeds of of more than 100Mbps through smart antenna technology and a multi-channel broadcasting. However, it is unlikely to increase the broadband technology's potential coverage area.

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