Irish service provider Imagine Communications has teamed up with Huawei to deliver cross-country ultra-broadband via a wireless-to-the-x network, a solution that could be faster and less costly than fiber alternatives.
Like many nations, Ireland struggles with a digital divide wherein rural regions have much less access to ultra-broadband than urban areas. The country began a national broadband plan in 2012 designed to bring 30 Mbp/s service to all homes by 2020. But, relying primarily on fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) architecture, providers have only connected 12,000 premises to date, according to Huawei.
Imagine will use Huawei's WTTx solution, combined with LTE technologies optimized as a purely fixed access network, to deliver speeds of at least 200 Mbp/s to both rural and urban regions of the Emerald Isle. LTE technologies such as Massive MIMO and Massive Carrier Aggregation -- which are future-proof for 5G -- provide downlink speeds of more than 1 Gbp/s. These latest 4.5G solutions use high-performance customer premises equipment (CPE) to connect premises to fiber at a mast.
"Working with Imagine in commercial environments, we have optimized our WTTx solution deployed as a purely fixed network alternative to FTTx," said Mao Dun, vice president of Huawei Wireless Marketing and Solution Sales, in a release.
Because fiber to a mast is much faster and less costly to deploy than fiber-to-the-x (FTTx), WTTx promises to bring broadband to underserved and unserved regions more rapidly than Ireland's current approach.
"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," said Sean Bolger, founder and executive chairman of Imagine in a statement. "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 capitalize on the digital economy."
During a limited trial in several rural regions, Imagine used its LTE fixed wireless access network to deliver 70 Mbp/s service to 16,000 users in less than a year, the service provider said. More than 100,000 customers have applied for the service, Imagine noted.
Having secured 3.6GHz 5G licenses in the May 2017 spectrum award outside cable-heavy urban regions, Imagine plans to offer 100 Mbp/s services beginning in October, aiming to achieve 85% market coverage by 2019.
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