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PBBA iBurst, Australia




Key Data


The iBurst Personal Broadband System is a mobile wireless broadband network currently being deployed in various urban centres in Australia by a consortium called Personal Broadband Australia (PBBA), formerly CKW Wireless. The investors include ArrayComm, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Australia and Kyocera. The total cost of the project has been estimated at around $25 million. Pre-commercial system rollout of the iBurst system commenced in November 2002 with commercial trials being successfully completed in October 2003 using 400 trial subscribers. The network was launched commercially in March 2004 in a ceremony / demonstration at Sydney Harbour. At launch the network covered over 100km² of the Sydney inner metro areas with a pledge to triple the area of coverage with an ambitious base station rollout plan by the end of 2004.

The iBurst service allows users to connect to the web via a high-speed wireless connection from a variety of devices including laptop computers and PDAs, enjoying 'always-on' connectivity at speeds of up to 1Mbps. The network is designed so that content and application providers can easily create personalised and differentiated services for the market. PBBA set up the first distribution deal in late 2003 with SecureTel, an Australian Internet Service Provider to market and distribute iBurst services on a wholesale basis.

SECURETEL DISTRIBUTION

SecureTel is offering two mobile wireless broadband products based on PBBA's iBurst service. These are:

Always-on, metropolitan Internet access: Backed by SecureTel's security architecture and suitable for businesses of all sizes with roaming staff, users can obtain DSL-like performance at connectivity speeds up to 1Mbit/s.

Private IP: A corporate network access tool based on SecureTel's Private IP products and using the standard iBurst User Terminal. Users can access their corporate network irrespective of location at a fixed cost and from there, Internet applications via their secure corporate network.

iBURST PERSONAL BROADBAND SYSTEM

The iBurst Personal Broadband System is a carrier-grade wide area wireless data network driven by 'Smart antenna technology' that will provide high-speed wireless Internet access over an IP-based wireless data network. iBurst is complementary to 2G and 3G systems as well as short-range 802.11 WLAN (Wi-Fi) networks. In this respect, it allows subscribers to use broadband access through multiple mobile technologies with seamless interoperability exchange between systems.

iBurst uses unpaired frequencies, 'Time Division Duplex (TDD) spectrum' and ArrayComm's IntelliCell signal processing software, which manages traffic by enabling a base station to detect and maintain links with a variety of subscribers in a congested signal environment.

The pure IP, end-to-end system is designed to support a range of IP applications in a mobile environment. Applications that iBurst can support include e-mail, virtual private networking, high-speed web access, streaming video, gaming and VoIP.

iBurst is designed to achieve 1Mbps to 40Mbps user peak data rates as well as 400x capacity over 2G and 40x over 3G. The system employs ArrayComm's IntelliCell, adaptive spatial processing technology to achieve spectral efficiency of four bits/sec/Hz/cell.

The system was first tested at ArrayComm's San Jose facilities, and later in 2002 underwent a technology trial in San Diego by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Each iBurst base station is able to handle approximately 20Mbit/s of traffic capacity. This means that at any one time, hundreds of users will be able to get an excellent signal and throughput. Other technologies do not have backhaul anywhere near this. This means that fewer iBurst towers are required to achieve the same coverage as other providers.

INTEROPERABILITY TESTING

In late 2003 PBBA ran a series of simulations and tests with UTStarcom, a leading IP access networking and services provider. The iBurst system came through the tests with flying colours. The system was totally compatible with UTStarcoms Total Control 1000 Packet Data Serving Node (PDSN) Technology.

The PDSN acts as an entry point for users to the iBurst packet data network. It identifies and authenticates the mobile user and performs the exchange of packets between mobile stations over the iBurst radio network and other IP networks. The iBurst system works in conjunction with UTStarcom's Foreign Agent Control Node (FACN) to offer users uninterrupted access to their data applications as they move through the network by the use of advanced mobile IP signalling applications.

SPECTRUM AND COVERAGE

The network uses unpaired 5MHz TDD spectrum in the 19GHz band (1,905MHz to 1,910MHz) obtained after a successful bid in the Australian Communications Authorities (ACA) 3G wireless spectrum auction. The commercial license covers a 15-year period from October 2002 onwards at a total spectrum cost of AU$9.5 million. The iBurst network will eventually cover eight Australian cities and be available to 14.5 million people, about 75% of Australia's population.

Melbourne is next on the agenda for PBBA, as it is predominantly flat and will only require three to four base stations to give superior coverage extending from the city itself to the suburbs, Fitzroy, New Market, Carlton, Kensington, Richmond and parts of St Kilda. Brisbane will be rolled out at the same time as Melbourne and there are plans for Canberra to be implemented by the end of 2005. Other capitals will then be looked at in the future on a demand basis.

The State of Victoria however will probably be a blind spot for the present time due to some high profile lawsuits against various network operators installing networks who have fallen foul of a the 'low impact facility' of the 1997 Telecommunications Act. This means that while antennae are regarded as 'low impact' under the law none of the other equipment associated with them is and thus rollouts are impossible. Network operators have understandably shied away from this and this will leave Victoria a relative 'mobile telecoms desert'.

iBURST APPLICATION SPECIFIC INTEGRATED CIRCUIT

User equipment in the iBurst network uses a baseband Application-Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), the first of which came off the production line in October 2002 at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The ASICs are designed for use in PCMCIA modems, PDA modules and other devices and constitute a conversion from an early-stage Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) format.

ArrayComm decided on the production of ASICs for user equipment to reduce device manufacturers' development cost and time-to-market for iBurst compatible devices in order to avoid a delay in the supply of equipment and hence a delay in subscription growth.

The ASICs contain fully iBurst-compliant transmitters and receivers with traffic, broadcast and paging-channel support, radio control functions, variable order modulation, forward error correction, constellation shaping and burst-by-burst link adaptation, among other features. They are manufactured in an advanced CMOS process and packaged in a 1.0mm ball pitch, 484-pin Fine Pitch Plastic Ball Grid Array (FPBGA).

KEY PLAYERS AND CONTRACTORS

iBurst is being deployed as a combined effort of Personal Broadband Australia. Formed in June 2002, the consortium includes ArrayComm Inc, the carrier Vodafone Australia, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) OzEmail, project manager Total Communications Infrastructure (TCI) and base station site owner Crown Castle Australia. Later in 2002, CommWorks joined the consortium as both equipment and service provider.

Other partners include UnitedIP, Fujitsu, SecureTel, Mobile Broadband, Veritel and Techex. The ASICs to be deployed in user equipment are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). The first confirmed base station and wireless modem licensee is Kyocera. Investors include Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Australia and Kyocera.

THE FUTURE FOR iBURST

iBurst makes use of the licensed 1.9GHz spectrum which has been built around ArrayComm's IntelliCell adaptive smart antenna (spatial processing) technology. Broadband speeds of up to 1Mbit/s download and 345kbit/s upload (simultaneously) are attainable, with the average download speed being 600kbit/s. The range of the iBurst technology is around 13km to 14km from a base station; the further away you get, the slower the speed gets.

iBurstII and iBurstIII are currently on the drawing board and will offer speeds of 4Mbit/s and 8Mbit/s respectively. The range will also be extended in the new versions.

iBurst technology has been very specifically designed for mobile users. It has excellent base station-to-base station hand over when moving (as well as standing still). iBurst is one of several technologies being proposed for the IEEE's 802.20 standard, but the only one that has a commercial implementation.

Today, PBBA has only PCMCIA cards available for iBurst (WIN CE drivers are promised soon to allow use of PDA's on the system). In the not too distant future there will be iBurst technology in SD or Compact Flash cards, enabling a new generation of devices with wireless. In early to mid-2005 PBBA will be releasing the desktop version of its iBurst service with a USB/Ethernet bridge.

At present there is no possibility of iBurst access in regional areas. When the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) held its auctions in 2001 it released only the 1.9GHz range in the capital cities, not the regional areas. No one owns the TDD 1900-1920 spectrums in places like Bathurst, Orange, Bendigo, Ballarat or Geelong, because the ACA hasn't decided to release that spectrum yet. One problem the iBurst service might have, is that due to their success so far, once the ACA does release the spectrum, the big Telecoms operators like Telstra and Optus will go all out to buy as much as they can to stop the iBurst service getting outside the capital cities.