Barrett brings WiMax to Ontario

The second leg of Barrett Xplore Inc.’s new WiMax-based fixed wireless Internet service to outlying Canadian communities has been launched, bringing faster broadband to new subscribers.

The Woodstock, N.B.-based company said last week that coverage is live in several Ontario towns and villages in the United Counties of Russell and Prescott, which is in the eastern edge of the province.

The service, which followed the start of WiMax coverage earlier in the year in Quebec, is part of a plan to boost Barrett’s rural Xplorenet broadband to speeds closer to what Canadians get in cities through the 4G technology and new satellites.

The terrestrial part of Barrett’s network will be 1,200 upgraded existing and new towers and capable of initially delivering speeds over 40 Mbps under ideal conditions. Next year that speed will be boosted to over 100Mbps – again under ideal conditions.

“The new network went in very smoothly,” said David Miles, Barrett’s chief network officer. “The support that we got from our [equipment] supplier Alvarion was top-notch, as well as from Tellabs [whose software manages the network core] and Bridgewater [which supplies policy control]. The back-end infrastructure was ready in record time … We went from signing contracts to loading our first customers in trial mode in about two months.”

Six new towers were built the communities of Wendover, Pendleton, St. Eugene and Lefaivre, which Barrett had either covered with satellite or unlicenced fixed-wireless broadband service that doesn’t have the capacity of the newer technologies. Two more locations will be added this month.

Businesses are being offered three packages costing $59.99, $79.99 or $99.99 a month of with maximum download speeds of 3 Mbps or 5 Mbps. Other features, such as the number of email accounts, vary by price.

The Ontario installation was partly paid for by the ministry of agriculture’s Rural Connections fund in a competitive bid.

This year the WiMax network – based on the IEEE 802.16e standard — will be expanded in both provinces. Next in Ontario are Wellington country, west of Kingston, and Grey county, which is south of Georgian Bay.

Barrett is slowly converting its old fixed wireless network that uses unlicenced spectrum to WiMax. While some of it will be paid for through federal and provincial grants, Barrett expects to put up $150 million of its own money.

Later this year the first of a new generation of high-throughput broadband satellites that Barrett has bought capacity on will be launched to extend its coverage.

Meanwhile, Miles continues to keep an eye on the mobile version of WiMax – called 802.16m, which some believe is a true 4G standard – that was approved last week. Mobile WiMax would give subscribers the ability to roam with handsets or USB modems for laptops.

“Right now we don’t have any firm plans for that,” Miles said. “However, we can’t predict the future just yet. We’re just starting out with our fixed offering. The Alvarion equipment is software-upgradable to 802.16m if we choose to go there.”

It can also be adapted to the LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology most North American wireless carriers are starting to adopt.

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