Aliant invests in EVDO for high-speed business opportunity

Atlantic-based telecom provider Aliant joined its competitors last week when it announced the launch of a next generation high-speed wireless network to customers in Halifax.

Competing network carriers in the region have already launched similar services ahead of Aliant. Both Telus and Rogers already offer their version of 3G networks in the area. At download speeds of 400 to 700 kbps, Telus Evolution Data Optimized (EVDO) network is comparable to that of Aliant’s. Rogers EDGE network has download speeds of up to 384 kbps compared to 156 kbps currently offered by Aliant’s 1X voice and data network, which is currently available to approximately 90 per cent of the population in Atlantic Canada. To date, Aliant has invested around $348 million to expand and enhance their digital wireless network and related services.

Aliant, which is investing $20 million in EVDO technology, is working with Nortel Networks to provide its services, hardware and software. Nortel has also worked on EVDO deployments with Telus, SaskTel, MTS and Bell Canada, which is the majority owner of Aliant. Aliant customers will be able to roam with Bell Canada’s high-speed network across the country.

Aliant plans to roll out the service to urban centres in the Atlantic region by the end of 2006 with plans to have the technology available to 60 per cent of the area’s population by 2007. The EVDO network will be available on the Kyocera Passport PC card, the Blackberry 7130e PDA and the Samsung a920 cell phone.

With download speeds comparable to that of a DSL or cable modem, users will be able to have a similar Internet experience on their mobile devices as they do at home, said Aliant’s director of wireless business marketing, Paul Pothier.

“Users can do a lot of things that they thought they could only do at home,” said Pothier. “Things like downloading large files, interfacing with the Web more effectively, accessing music, entertainment and video and real time access to corporate information.”

A small group of Aliant customers have had a chance to trial the technology since last November. For the most part, they were using the network to access corporate LANs and corporate information. Pothier expects the early adopters to be enterprise or small business employees looking for these functionalities when they’re on the road.

“The first users will either be enterprise employees and or small businesses who need information or connectivity when they’re on the go,” he said. “As we’re able to launch more entertainment solutions, we expect it will stretch to the general consumer.”

While the cost varies depending on the terms of useage, at $50 to $80 on top of regular cell phone packages per month, it’s not cheap. On the lower level, a user that wants to download a sports feed from a news service, for examplee, would pay around $1 per download.

In the U.S., Verizon recently brought down its prices from US $99 to US $59 to compete with Sprint EVDO offering. Nortel has service and equipment contracts with both providers.

In that market, Nortel’s vice-president and product general manager Doug Wolff said the mobility aspect has been a big part of people adopting the EVDO technology.

“Being able to get larger chunks of data supported and capabilities where and when you want is one of the key drivers for people to purchase it,” said Wolff. “We’re seeing more video come in whether it be live streaming or pushing pictures up to Web site. We’re also seeing a lot more person to person communications where higher throughput is required.”

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