China Netcom to expand wireless broadband access

China Network Communications Group Corp. (China Netcom), China’s second-largest fixed-line operator, plans to offer wireless broadband services in one more Chinese province, while simultaneously expanding coverage in the three other provinces where the service is currently available, network equipment vendor Alvarion Ltd. said Tuesday.

China Netcom first began rolling out broadband wireless services during October last year in 10 cities: eight in Sichuan province and one each in Zhejiang province and Jiangsu province, according to Alvarion, of Tel Aviv, Israel. These services are provided using Alvarion’s WalkAir 1000 platform that provides wireless broadband Internet access using the 3.5GHz spectrum.

WalkAir 1000 offers capacity of up to 130M bps (bits per second) for each base station and can be used to provide connections of 64K bps to 4M bps per subscriber, according to Alvarion. However, to receive the signal at a distance beyond 100 meters from a base station, an external antenna is required to be installed on the outside of a building. The antenna is then linked with an indoor unit using a coaxial cable.

China Netcom plans to begin offering 3.5GHz wireless broadband services in Hunan province, while expanding coverage to additional sites in Zhejiang province, Sichuan province and Jiangsu province, Alvarion said. It did not disclose the number of additional sites where the services will be made available or the number of subscribers that will be served.

The deal with China Netcom was made by Alvarion partner Beijing Siemens Communication Networks Ltd. (BSCN), in Beijing., which has struck deals with other operators in China to provide wireless broadband access using Alvarion’s equipment. BSCN has signed deals to provide Alvarion equipment for wireless broadband services provided by China Telecommunications Corp. (China Telecom) and mobile operator China United Telecommunications Corp. (China Unicom).

Another partner, Datang Telecom Technology Co. Ltd., has provided Alvarion’s wireless broadband equipment to China Telecom and San Jiang Aerospace Network & Communication Co. Ltd., a broadband ISP (Internet service provider) in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Despite Alvarion’s announcement of the deal with China Netcom, wireless broadband remains a technology that is less widely deployed than others for delivering broadband services in China.

Approximately 73 per cent of Of China’s 19.6 million [M] broadband subscribers access the Internet over an asynchronous digital subscriber line (ADSL) connection and 20 per cent get online using some form of LAN, such as a fibre to the building (FTTB ) connection, according to Tian Hong [CQ], deputy general manager of China Telecom’s Network Planning Division, speaking at a recent seminar in Shanghai.

China Telecom, which is the largest provider of broadband Internet services in China, expects ADSL to continue to be the primary means of providing broadband Internet services in China, Tian said.

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