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Vodafone tests WiMax waters on Malta

Deployment on Mediterranean island nation includes promise of bundled broadband, telephony and mobile services.

2 min read
Vodafone is deploying a WiMax-based network on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, in what is seen as a test bed for wider deployment.

The company announced the Malta network--its first WiMax deployment--on Friday. Offering download speeds of up to 1Mbps, the service follows an "intensive trial period" of the long-range, high-bandwidth wireless technology.

The system, in the 3.5GHz frequency, is based on Airspan Networks' HiperMax base stations, which are designed for high-density deployments. Although customers will be able to access the service only from a fixed location, Airspan's equipment is software-upgradable to the mobile variant of WiMax.

Paul Senior, Airspan's chief technology officer, said the Malta deployment could have wider implications. "Malta is one of Vodafone's classic test markets," he told ZDNet UK. "We understand that there is significant interest in what's being done by Vodafone HQ. Airspan is committed to making it a success and showing that WiMax can support a deployment model that provides a credible service bundle of broadband, fixed telephony and mobile."

But Vodafone played down the significance of the rollout, suggesting that it formed only part of the operator's strategy. "For Malta, they've decided it's the most efficient route to give to their customers, based on a number of factors, such as geographic considerations and the (local) market," said a representative of the mobile operator.

In the U.K., the radio spectrum for mobile WiMax could be made available next year when the Office of Communications--the U.K. telecommunications regulator known as Ofcom--auctions radio spectrum in the 2.6GHz range.

However, there is a long-running rivalry between service providers seeking to set up mobile WiMax and those behind 3G technology, which is more established in western Europe.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.