He referenced in a follow up post an initiative by iiNet and a small New Zealand company that was aiming at doing something quite innovative. His original posts sparked my interest and we did some preliminary investigation. Earlier this morning I read an article in IT Wire:
which showed that British Telecom together with a Spanish company called FON was also starting to do a WiMax roll out based on some sort of 'co-operative' venture with their customers.
In essence this simple concept is to 'empower/provide with the ability' any customer who wishes to participate in providing wireless access to their private DSL connection to casual/semi-permanent other users in their immediate vicinity who can connect via WiMAx. There are an awful lot of ifs and buts attached to this simple concept but it is really interesting.
If you look at it in pure financial terms, Exetel already has an Australia wide network that costs us well over $A1,500,000 a month that connects our 50,000+ broadband users to our internet services. This network is leased by Exetel from Telstra, Optus and Powertel but it is used only by Exetel's customers and it's paid for by Exetel. (as of course is every other ISP's network who uses backhaul and last mile providers).
Each of the end customers, or at least the majority of them, run some sort of small network within their own residence or business (many via wireless) which is used by their families or house mates.
What's the difference between those customers who wished to do so providing wireless connectivity to their neighbours - especially in multi unit apartment blocks? (as an aside - I use a laptop in my lounge room or study at home that in theory connects to the internet via our own ADSL2 service via a wireless router. However when I power up the laptop I get a choice of my own in house network or three neighbouring networks. The same applies in the office where there is a choice of over a dozen wireless networks if you use your laptop in the ground floor coffee shop).
The difference, of course, is going to be that Telstra certainly and Optus probably will find some contractual reason to make this as difficult as possible. There is also the base regulatory issues in the communications act centering round when and under what circumstances a carrier license is required.
I dimly remember in the early BigPond days that there were specific exclusions of connecting the early ADSL service to a 'network'. Those exclusions, if they ever existed, have long disappeared as a huge proportion of all DSL services are shared.
Personally I see some very real opportunities in this train of thought and, irrespective of how the final legalities turn out, it has significantly simplified another course of action we've been considering.
So, my public vote of thanks to "Stealth" who has fired the enthusiasm of key people within Exetel to look at this WiMax problem from a 180 degree different angle.
The Exetel Forum has provided Exetel with dozens of great ideas over the past 4 years and this may prove to be the best one yet.
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