Seven pushes ahead with 4G network

Rose Major

Australia’s Seven Network Ltd has unveiled its plans to build a 4G wireless broadband network in the Western Australian capital of Perth. Starting rollout in March 2010, the company has set up a new unit, Vividwireless, to market the network.

The network will be built by another Seven Network company, Unwired, using a WiMAX solution and will operate in the 2.3Ghz band. There is a medium term roadmap to the simultaneous operation of WiMAX and LTE.

Vividwireless has committed some A$50 million in funding to rollout the service across the city. The company is launching in Perth because it is a rapidly-growing market with strong economic fundamentals, as well as being a market currently under-served by broadband infrastructure.

Huawei has been selected as the network equipment supplier for the build and agreements are also in place with other key partners, including Unwired. Unwired will build and operate the network for Vividwireless, or in corporate speak, “will lend to Vividwireless’s Perth enterprise its deep experience and expertise in the construction and optimisation of wireless broadband networks.”

4G (4th generation technology) is the latest standard in wireless technology supporting high speed broadband and full mobility. 4G provides a comprehensive and secure solution where services, such as data, streamed multimedia and voice are provided to users at much higher speeds compared with previous generations of 2G & 3G.

Kerry Stokes, executive chairman of Seven Network Limited, said: “We believe in 4G, as it provides an infrastructure and the ability to deliver new and competing telecommunications, data and content services to all Australians.”

Ryan Stokes, chairman of Vividwireless, said: “Vividwireless has access to the largest allocation of 4G spectrum in metropolitan Australia, this will be focused on providing customers the best wireless broadband service in Australia. The wide application of services allows Seven Network Limited to further strengthen its digital platform connecting broadband users to the internet and burgeoning multi-media solutions.”

Customers accessing the network via a laptop can expect average speeds of +4Mbps and peak speeds in excess of 20mbps, up to 10 times faster than those delivered by the existing 3G networks. Vividwireless is also promising contract-free plans and no excess usage charges.

Australian pay-TV operator Austar, which also owns wireless capacity in Australia, welcomed the 4G rollout, calling it a “visionary step”.

“We applaud the Seven Network for capitalizing on the opportunities that its 2.3GHz spectrum offers for 4G wireless broadband technologies such as WiMAX or LTE,” Austar CEO John Porter said in a statement.

“Austar has long believed that Australians will only be properly served by wireless broadband in a 4G capacity. Not only will wireless play an important role in the National Broadband Network as an alternative access solution for rural and regional areas in which extensive fibre deployments are uneconomic or impractical, but it also adds another dimension of service to the proposed fibre rollout in suburban and metro markets with its portability and mobility elements.”

Austar had agreed to sell its 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum to the OPEL Broadband Connect consortium at the beginning of 2008, but after the incoming government pulled funding for that rollout, that sale was terminated. At the time, Porter said that the company remained confident that Austar would be in a position to monetise the spectrum holdings at some point in the future.