Bell to offer fixed wireless in Alberta

Bell Canada will be a position to deploy wireless access to its network within a 30- to 40-day window following an expansion of its Alberta network with more than 300 point-to-multipoint (PTMP) wireless links.

The company said

Wednesday it has already begun work on the project, which an executive said will cover a footprint of several thousand kilometers across Alberta. Bell has formed a partnership with Ericsson whereby it will use its Mini-Link network products, including PTMP systems, network management and services. The system will be complemented by a point-to-point Mini-Link High Capacity OC-3 equivalent solution, providing high-speed data rates of up to 155 Mbps, Bell said.

Fixed wireless has become an area of considerable activity in Canada. Microcell last year formed a joint venture with Allstream and NR Communications called Inukshuk Internet, which has been providing service to small businesses in remote parts of the country. Terago, meanwhile, has been offered fixed wireless in Calgary since 1999.

Keith Ponton, general manager of engineering at Bell Canada, said fixed wireless has matured over the last few years to a price-performance point where it made sense for Bell to increase its investment. “”We really look at the cost of traditional solutions to reach end customers — namely fibre builds or other types of wireline technologies — and for us it was a way to deploy at an improved cost structure and decrease the time it takes to achieve fibre-based deployments.””

Roberta Fox, president of Fox Group Consulting, said fixed wireless adopters include municipal governments, health-care organizations and corporations that have campus environments.

“”(It’s) not so much Fortune 1,000 and top industry, but groups like non-profit or government who are coming together because of restructuring,”” she said.

Bell is examining its existing IP-based services such as virtual private networks, videoconferencing and Web hosting and will deploy those wirelessly first to existing customers. “”We’ll be adding customers to this in 2005 as well,”” he said.

Ponton said Bell is aware it faces several competitors for the fixed wireless market.

“”We’re certainly careful observers of what other people are doing,”” he said. “”This was really driven by what we felt was a point where it was the right fit for our network to continue to deploy it cost-effectively.””

Fox said fixed wireless customers come with their own set of expectations. “”They want fixed costs. They won’t want the flexible costs,”” she said. “”They want to switch back and forth between cellular and fixed wireless. And we’re not there yet.””

Bell expects the deployment will likely wrap up by the middle of next year.

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