By: MarkJ - 27 April, 2011 (12:01 AM)
ftta uk bluwanBluwan has confirmed that its new and questionably named Fibre Through The Air (FTTA™) technology, which makes clever use of the 12GHz and 42GHz radio spectrum (wireless) to push broadband internet access speeds of up to 100Mbps into homes (although most operators will probably provision an FTTA network to 25-30Mbps peak), could go live in the UK by the end of this year (2011).

The line-of-sight (can still use relays to get around obstructions) technology, which distributes its signal by using a 360 degree antenna, was only recently launched during February's Mobile World Congress 2011 event and has since gained a lot of coverage, not least for its contradictory name - fibre is a physical and not wireless method of communication. We had a few giggles at that one cheese .

Bluwan claims that its solution also offers a number of other benefits over traditional wireless technologies. For example, it's been designed to retain its performance, even during rain storms and at distances of over 10km (12GHz). It also offers fairly low latency connections of 20-30ms (millisecond pings), although a good ADSL2+ connection can achieve similar.

FTTA can also act as a mobile backhaul solution and uses a wireless wave division multiplexer to bond multiple channels to a 1GHz radio. By doing this and other tricks FTTA claims an ability to deliver multi-gigabit capacity of up to 12Gbps from a single base station. It can even be used to distribute and support other services, such as WiMAX , 3G and 4G connectivity.

Shayan Sanyal, Bluwan's CMO, told

"We currently have trials going on across Europe, from a partnership with Orange in Slovakia, to one currently in progress with the City of Paris. Whilst neither of these may be in the UK, they do showcase the service, the technology and what we can do. We are also in the process of signing up more trials around the globe.

In terms of commercial feasibility, companies in this sector are aware that they need a solution to the current capacity issues they are facing. Whilst many are looking at ways in which to moderate it for now, i.e. traffic management, these aren’t long term solutions.

Bluwan is offering a truly innovative solution, one which allow operators to deal with the issue of capacity, as well as offer them economic savings. Our solution is resonating with a number of operators across the world, including the UK and Ireland, from incumbents, to wireless ISPs and mobile broadband operators."

Bluwan wasn't keen to discuss their UK deals and admitted that its target launch window (i.e. before the end of 2011) could still be "subject to delays". Never the less it's understood that several UK network operators are likely to launch FTTA technology in the near future, MML Telecom, The UK Broadband Group (PCCW) and Mobile Broadband Networks Limited (MBNL) (joint network sharing venture between Three (3) , Orange and T-Mobile UK).

Shayan Sanyal added:

"As I’m sure you know, we can’t discuss any deals which are in progress; however, the UK has always been a focus of ours, and we are currently working on getting the service here as soon as possible. Ideally, we’d like to be live by the end of the year, however, as with everything, this could be subject to delays. We are in close discussions with one of the licence holders.

Our aim is, and always will be, to bring high speed broadband to everyone – wherever they are based. We believe it’s become a right, not a privilege. The UK has one of the best infrastructures and with the Government interest and belief in this cause too, we feel it is only a matter of time before we can bring our solution here."

Once ready Bluwan firmly believes that it will be able to install and deploy its FTTA services within a six-month timeframe. It perceives the UK as being a highly suitable country for trials of its technology and is progressing with that in mind. Happily the frequencies that their equipment leverages are already licensed for use in the UK.

However, all this optimism should be tempered against a slice of realism. Many UK operators have already moved forward to progress their future plans by using established methods. Bluwan, as a newcomer, faces a struggle to be seen and heard. Several successful UK trials would go a long way to solving that, although by that time the opportunities, not least for gaining public investment, could have dwindled significantly.
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