NZ chooses W-CDMA for 3G mobile trial

Walker Wireless Ltd. and Vodafone New Zealand Ltd. have teamed up to trial a 3G cellular network in Auckland based on wideband CDMA technology provided by California-based IPWireless Inc.

The trial will initially run for a month in two sites in central Auckland but will roll out to five sites by July.

Walker Wireless chief executive Bob Smith says the technology will allow frame relay-level quality of service on a wireless connection.

“It’s a fixed wireless network so while the modems are small enough to carry around, it’s not really a mobile network, it’s more a portable one.”

Smith says one benefit of the network, apart from ease of roll out, is that Walker Wireless can set different levels of service without too much fuss.

“So we can set price points for home users or for large businesses based on bandwidth and quality.” Pricing has yet to be announced but Smith says it will be competitive with Telecom’s JetStream offering.

Unlike satellite-based wireless systems, W-CDMA is a cellular technology, so Smith says there shouldn’t be any problem with latency or lag — good news for gamers.

“We’re working with Vodafone on this one and it’s provided NZ$3 million (US$1.4 million) to advance the trial. We’re looking at possibly using its cellsites in the future but for this stage, no, we’re using the Sky Tower.”

Smith says the service can run at 3M bps (bits per second) download and 1M bps upload.

“That means we can use it for videoconferencing and that level of service as well.” One of the first applications Smith is hoping to roll out is voice over IP.

“It would receive dedicated bandwidth, of course, to ensure quality.”

Vodafone runs a GSM network with a GPRS overlay for higher data speeds. CDMA is the technology of choice for Telecom’s new high-speed network, but W-CDMA is a possible future option for both companies. Vodafone has yet to announce its plans for any future 3G network.