21/04/2005

Science Museum and WiMAX

There was an article in IEE Review about the Science Museum's WiMAX trial near Swindon. It came out with some interesting revelations.

Firstly the area is isolated, there's little telecomms infrastructure there including lack of GSM coverage.

Secondly they were going to lay their own fibre, but that would have cost near enough £1m.

Thirdly (and here's the crux) Intel are based in Swindon and offered to run the trial.

The site is several hundred acres in size (it's an old airfield) and has 11 hangars. They're using WiMAX from Intel to the airfield and between hangars and WiFi in the hangars themselves.

Now the problems with WiMAX has always been frequency allocation/regulatory not the technology which is great. They've got around this by going to PCCW (who own the UK 3.4GHz license) and asking to "borrow" it in this area. Since there's so little in the vicinity it's very unlikely PCCW would roll-out in that area anyway. So PCCW said yes and then Intel went to Ofcom and applied for a test license to run a WiMAX trial on 3.4GHz.

It does seem to work, even though the power levels in use in the trial are lower than PCCW are allowed to use.

However it does show that rolling out WiMAX in the UK isn't going to be easy, Intel could have chosen 5.8GHz Band C, but they chose not to. Other areas aren't going to be so lucky as PCCW will want to offer service there.
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