The country’s first mobile WiMAX network is a step closer to signing up business and residential subscribers.
Craig Wireless Systems Ltd. said Tuesday that the first phase of its new Vancouver wireless system is finished, with commercial deployment expected early in the second quarter.
“We’re absolutely elated” that the downtown Vancouver coverage is done, said Robert Vandenbos, the company’s chief strategist.
“We cannot wait. We’re getting ready with the parade to sign up that first paying customer.”
For the time being, however, only select members of the media and other interested people will be able to give it a test drive using WiMAX-enabled USB or desktop modems.
Initially, along with a fixed outdoor antenna for businesses, that’s how subscribers will get service. However, Vandenbos said there’s a good chance that later this year Craig will be selling handsets as well, putting the company eventually up against seven cellular and wireless providers in one of the most competitive markets in North America.
That includes incumbents BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications Inc. and Telus Corp., and soon-to-launch startups Wind Mobile and Mobilicity. Cableco Shaw Communications will likely join next year, as eventually Novus Wireless.
Asked how Craig will appeal to businesses, Vandenbos emphasized WiMAX’s speed and the ability to access the network around Vancouver. “The speeds will be four to five times greater” than the newest Bell, Rogers and Telus networks, he said.
The trio say their networks can get download up to 21 Megabits per second (Mbps), but only under ideal conditions. The more people on the network the slower it gets. Vandenbos said Craig’s WiMAX service will average 6 Mbps, with bursts up to 10 Mbps.
The completion of the first stage of the network has been a long time coming for the company, which has been planning for several years to switch to the speedy WiMAX technology from its fixed legacy wireless service in the lower B.C. mainland and Winnipeg.
Vandenbos said WiMAX service will debut in Winnipeg later this year. Also later this year coverage will be extended to the lower mainland, and after that to Vancouver Island and the B.C. interior.
Having service only in two provinces could be a limiting factor to some potential subscribers who would want to use their devices on the road. The only other holders of WiMAX spectrum are BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada and Rogers Communications, who so far have yet to put it into commercial use. The two carriers currently use a proprietary pre-WiMAX technology on their shared Inukshuk service to underserved areas of the country. They have no plans to use their WiMAX spectrum in cities, where they already have other high speed wireless networks.
However, Vandenbos hopes Craig Wireless will have a roaming agreement with the two U.S. WiMax carriers, Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire Corp. “in the very near future.” Clearwire’s Clear service is offered in Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta.