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Self-install WiMax kit comes to Tokyo

Consumers will be able to install their own WiMax gear later this year, when a network rolls out in central Tokyo, network provider says.

By December of this year, Tokyo residents will be able to get multi-megabit broadband wherever they live or work in the city, thanks to a WiMax router set to go on sale there, with other cities to follow suit.

Communications operator Yozan is rolling out 600 AS.MAX base stations from wireless broadband vendor Airspan, enough to provide WiMax connectivity across the central zone of Tokyo. Yozan customers will simply buy the corresponding AS.MAX customer device, a new product that the company claims is the first indoor WiMax equipment that people can install themselves.

Despite the ready availability of broadband in Tokyo, Yozan will sell the service as a cheap alternative for mobile people who do not want to be tied to a contract for a fixed line. "It will be pitched much cheaper than DSL or fiber, for users who don't have a phone at home," said Paul Senior, vice president of marketing at Airspan. "This is a whole new market for wireless broadband."

When consumers move, they can take the WiMax equipment with them and set up in their new location. It can be connected by wire to a PC or, alternatively, customers can add Wi-Fi connectivity.

The service will support the WiMax IEEE 802.16-2004 specification, but the base stations delivering it can be upgraded to mobile WiMax standard IEEE 802.16e, Senior said. "Once there are chips for 802.16e, at the end of 2006, the base stations will just need a software upgrade," he said.

The base stations will have multiple 10MHz channels, each of which can provide a 30mbps peak rate, which will be shared by users within 500 meters of the base station. The frequency it will use is not disclosed. "It's a Japan-specific frequency band, and Yozan needs to complete negotiations to use it," Senior said.

A trial will begin in June. Building of the network will begin in October, and a commercial service is expected to be launched in December. "We are looking to repeat this with other partners in cities like New York or London," Senior said.

Peter Judge of ZDNet UK reported from London.