Huawei and Imagine Communications Group have announced the formation of a strategic partnership which will witness Ireland become the first country to benefit from the deployment of a pioneering national wireless-to the-x (WTTx) network.Using the latest released LTE technologies optimised as a purely fixed access network, Imagine will use Huawei’s (WTTx) solution to deliver Superfast Broadband (200Mbps plus) connectivity across Ireland, removing the digital divide between urban and rural areas.With the latest 4.5G technologies (such as Massive MIMO and Massive Carrier Aggregation), capable of a downlink speed of over 1Gbps and providing a roadmap to 5G, using high performance Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) to connect premises to fiber at a mast is faster to deploy with significantly lower cost comparing to fiber access solutions. WTTx is emerging as a key strategic alternative to FTTx accelerating the delivery of 100% high speed broadband availability.Ireland is a country with a huge contrast between urban and rural areas in term of network infrastructure. While in urban areas cable availability provides an alternative to the limited fiber-to-the-x (FTTx) experience, it rarely meets the advertised headline speeds of up to 100Mbps, and cannot meet the demand for higher speed 100Mbps plus services.
In fact for 61% of the market in regional and rural areas, x digital subscriber line (xDSL) services are as slow as 3 Mbps.Ireland initiated a national broadband plan in 2012 to make 30Mbps broadband services available to every home by 2020. With fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) as the only alternative until now, the challenges and high cost of the deployment of the planned rollout of FTTP services by commercial operators have yet materialized, with only 12 thousand premises connected.In a limited commercial trial of Imagine LTE fixed wireless access network in selected rural areas with a 70Mbps service, in less than a year 16,000 customers have already been connected with over 100,000 customers applying for the service. With the 3.6GHz 5G licenses secured in the recent spectrum award (May 2017), outside of limited urban areas where high speed broadband using cable is available, Imagine will be the first operator to provide Superfast 100Mbps plus services to the rest of the market. Imagine will commence the rollout of its network in October with the objective of 85% market coverage by 2019.Mao Dun, Vice President of Huawei Wireless Marketing and Solution Sales, said, “Huawei’s WTTx solution has the capability of providing internet access to everybody everywhere. Working with Imagine in commercial environment, we have optimised our WTTx solution deployed as a purely fixed network alternative to FTTx. Removing the barriers faced by FTTx deployments to meet the need and demand for Superfast Broadband, Ireland is an ideal market to demonstrate the ability of the latest WTTx solutions. We look forward to continuing our strategic partnership with imagine and delivering the best in industry solution.”With the release of the 3.6GHz spectrum, the Imagine WTTx network is the first major 5G initiative that will benefit Ireland. As one of the first countries to release the ‘pioneer spectrum’ for 5G wireless services, Ireland has the opportunity to benefit from further investment and to become a leader in the development and deployment of innovative fixed and mobile wireless services and business models of the future.Sean Bolger, Founder and Executive Chairman of Imagine, commented, “Working closely with Huawei we have achieved our vision of an alternative to FTTP infrastructure which can meet the demand for Superfast Broadband services today and into the future. As an Irish company, we are delighted that Ireland will be one of the first countries in the world to benefit from this game changing innovation in fast broadband infrastructure.”“The Imagine network will overcome the significant challenges that have impeded the delivery of future proofed high-speed broadband services across Ireland and meet the government objective of a truly connected society, positioning both rural and urban Ireland to fully capitalise on the digital economy.
In a global digital era, the availability of high speed broadband can ensure not just the sustainability but the development of a vibrant rural Ireland both socially and economically,” Bolger continued.
He runs a community website and uploads nature videos and weather reports, but was finding the task too difficult with basic downloads speeds of about 500Kbps.
Because his 3G coverage in Wales is also intermittent, he decided to turn to a satellite 22,000 miles above Africa for help.
A spokesman for BT said: ‘Heol Senni is in scope to benefit from the scheme and work to provide access to superfast broadband to this rural community is anticipated to be completed in the early autumn.’
The satellite broadband doesn’t come cheap, however – Professor Spry pays ?420 a year for its download speeds of up to 28Mbps.
A retired professor of immunology, he also pays ?250 for BT broadband, used as a back-up if the satellite signal is blocked by heavy rain or snow.
‘I’m interested in what’s going on in the world, I’m a very inquisitive person, I’m asking questions all the time and I need to know so the web is a wonderful resource for all of us who need to know what’s happening,’ he said.
View photos Professor Spry lives in rural Wales where broadband is slow (Picture: Rex) More
His internet signal travels about 50,000 miles from a satellite dish in his garden to the ASTRA 2F satellite and back, via a firm in Luxembourg.
‘It really makes all the difference in the world, without it I think my life would be quite difficult up here… but it does need a satellite 24,000 miles above the surface of the earth over the Congo – it does seem ridiculous doesn’t it,’ he said.
‘Without broadband we’re living in a dark age, so let’s hope everybody can have high speed broadband soon and they’ll be able to use it for whatever they want – entertainment, education, research – it’s a wonderful tool for everybody.’
The government announced on Sunday that homes and businesses everywhere in the UK will soon benefit from universal high-speed broadband.
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