N.B. carrier says it will beat all to 4G wireless

Canadians in rural and outlying areas are about to get more opportunities to buy broadband service as fast if not faster than their downtown cousins get.

Barrett Xplore Inc., whose Xplornet division provides fixed wireless broadband to 130,000 businesses and homes across Canada, says it will beat the country’s major carriers by building a fourth generation wireless network this year for rural areas.

The Woodstock, N.B. company said Thursday the new network will initially offer fixed wireless service, then add a satellite-based wireless.

The move comes as Industry Canada starts distributing $225 million to Internet providers to boost rural Internet access.

However, unlike major cellular companies like Rogers Communications, Bell Canada and Telus Corp., Barrett won’t sell handsets or tablets. Instead it will focus on in-premises-based wireless.

“Barrett Xplore’s mission is to bridge the urban/rural broadband divide in Canada,” Barrett Xplore CEO John Maduri said in a news release. “4G means the goal of bringing fast, robust, affordable broadband to all Canadians, regardless of location will be achieved in the very near future. The potential impact of rural broadband can’t be overstated. From telecommuting, to new business in rural areas, to distance health and education, rural broadband can change the face of Canada.”

Service on the new network will start in southwestern Ontario and Quebec by the end of this year.

The company’s existing network includes satellite service and a land-based system using Motorola’s pre-WiMAX technology, which the manufacturer calls Expedience. The new $150 million network will use based on the official WiMAX 802.16e Enhanced standard using equipment from Washington, D.C.-based Alvarion Ltd.

The 802.16e version of WiMAX is called a 4G technology by some experts, compared to the 3.5G technology called HSPA+ used by Bell, Rogers, Telus, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Videotron.

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.


Allison Lenehan, Barrett’s chief strategy officer, said in an interview that the Alvarion equipment can be shifted to the 802.16m standard when it is finalized, which will support mobile devices.

Or, he added, the carrier may opt to convert the system to the LTE standard, which a number of operators around the world are moving to as a global 4G standard.While speed is important, the company said in a news release, a vital advantage of the new network is more bandwidth for more robust service packages. It claims up to 10 times the capacity of today’s HSPA data networks run by Bell, Rogers, Telus and others.

To augment the land network, Barrett has partnered with two U.S. companies for two satellites, The first, called Viasat 1 and built by Viasat Inc., will launch next April with service to begin in the last summer. The second, to be built by Hughes Network Systems LLC, will be launched in 2012. These satellites will offer customers in remote areas speeds up to 25Mbps.

“By 2012, between our 4G wireless network and the two new satellites we’ll have robust, affordable broadband for every rural Canadian, which is who we’re targeting,” said Lenehan.

Barrett sells service through local dealers, including Mt. Pleasant Antenna of Brantford, Ont. Company owner George Reid said he has “a few hundred” Xplorenet customers. News that its network speed will be increased is “going to be really good for everybody,” he said. Asked it if will mean more business for him, he replied, “Yeah, big time.”

Roberta Fox, senior partner at Fox Group, a Mt. Albert, Ont., telecommunications consultant who advises businesses on telephony, has several customers using Xplorenet service, including large manufacuturers with factories outside urban areas that either need the capacity the satellite service offers or who can’t get broadband any other way.

Another customer is Fox Group itself, which uses satellite to augment its landline DSL broadband access. The DSL doesn’t have enough bandwidth for her company’s needs, she explained — it handles the firm’s voice-over-IP phone service, so the satellite is used for Web access and data transfer.

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