Bluwan has announced a "super-fast, high-capacity Fibre Through The Air [FTTA] solution" that will enable broadband carriers to extend their network capacities and extend next-generation broadband services to areas where fibre currently cannot go.
The service, officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress after live trials in France and Slovakia, offers multi-gigabit capacity backhaul and access in challenging locations using microwave technology. The microwave-based technology uses the last point where fast broadband can be delivered and then fans out from that point to extend the availability of broadband far beyond where it would otherwise reach.
FTTA can be used to provide 3G and 4G mobile networks as well as high-speed broadband. It is both potentially cheaper and more scalable than fibre, meaning places where broadband installation was previously unviable due to cost could be offered high-speed web access.
“Bluwan is really exciting because it means emerging technology and media startups can access true high-speed broadband - whether they're based in the Scottish Highlands or a major city like London,” said Elizabeth Varley, co-founder and CEO of TechHub. “By providing a fast, wireless and reliable alternative to fibre, Bluwan can help bridge the digital divide for small businesses in a faster, greener and more cost-effective way.”
A French company with its roots in providing communications in challenging military locations such as Iraq, Bluwan believes it FTTA service offers a workable solution to how to provide broadband access to areas of the UK and elsewhere that are currently classed as broadband not-spots.
The French Alps have been successfully used as a trial. Bluwan now wants to set up similar trials in the UK as part of the government’s stated aim of fixing the Final Third that can’t get broadband internet.
Since FFTA (fibre through the air) uses high-frequency microwaves, it has had to pass rigorous independent safety tests conducted by Bureau Veritas. These have shown the technology emissions are less than 0.1v per square metre. This, points out Bluwan, is 20 times lower than the radiation emitted by a mobile phone.
A live demonstration PC Advisor attended last month saw FTTA in action in an area of Paris in which it was previously considered financially unviable to install fast broadband. In partnership with the City of Paris it created a "central transmission hub" with feeds that included live HD TV.
FTTA can provide high-definition video streaming while simultaneously allowing another user on the same connection to play online gaming at the lowest latency. Very wide band connections of up to 100Mbps to the premises will be possible, though Bluwan expects most ISPs to offer perhaps 30Mbps. Even so, for residents who deem themselves Broadband Have Nots, such possibilities are quite giddying.
Crucially, it can cost as little as a tenth as much as fibre-optic broadband to install. It also offers high bandwidth and high speed over a wide area network and at a price that makes it viable to install if even 100 end users sign up to the service.
Bluwan's technology is based on proven point-to-point microwave connectivity deployed by the US military, its allies and networking specialists Cisco and Thales. Experts from the two companies formed Bluwan with the specific aim of looking at how a military solution could be used in a commercial environment.
Bluwan is one of several companies with ideas about how to fix the final third of UK addresses to which broadband is not currently available and is keen to trial its FTTA service as part of the UK government's plans to address rural broadband access issues.
"It's not a compromise [solution]. It's just as good, if not better, than what you can get in the city," Bluwan's Shyam Sanyal told PC Advisor.