Vodacom WiMAX to go commercial in October, but no mobility yet

27 Aug 2008

South African cellular operator Vodacom is aiming to launch commercial WiMAX wireless broadband services in partnership with Wireless Business Solutions (iBurst) at the beginning of October, reports Mybroadband.co.za. Services will be mainly aimed at business customers in the Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng regions, with a two-tier range of packages – ‘Vodacom WiMAX Broadband’ targeting SMEs and ‘Vodacom WiMAX Assured Rate’ service which is pitched as a leased line substitute for larger corporate customers. Vodacom says it pushed back the commercial launch due to a worldwide shortage of customer premises equipment (CPE).

Vodacom has rolled out a mobile WiMAX network based on the IEEE 802.16e [mobile] standard – which is officially owned and controlled by WiMAX licensee Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) – using Huawei and Alcatel as vendors, and says it has so far deployed 120 base stations nationally. WBS has been granted 15MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum by telecoms regulator ICASA, which has said it plans to upgrade existing licences to 20MHz. Mybroadband.co.za quotes Vodacom as saying, ‘The service is being deployed as static [fixed wireless] at the moment, due to the limited capacity the current spectrum allocation imposes on each cell. Mobility will be considered once capacity is increased either by increased spectrum and/or enhanced spectral efficiency offered by planned revisions of the IEEE 802.16e standard.’

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, iBurst, the operating arm of WBS, is one of four WiMAX licensees in South Africa alongside Telkom, Neotel and Sentech. Vodacom is keen to capitalise on iBurst’s WiMAX concession, saying it plans to deploy a total of ‘several hundred’ mobile WiMAX base stations to provide high speed internet services in areas not currently covered by fixed broadband networks. iBurst’s 3.5GHz 802.16e network went live in June 2008 with coverage of Gauteng, Western Cape (Cape Town) and Kwazulu-Natal.