Telabria plans to launch a network in South East England by mid-2005: The operator is using an interesting combination of technologies. Telabria will use 802.16-based gear to extend the network throughout the area. But because initial 802.16-based end user equipment is still expensive, Telebria will use a mesh 802.11-based network from SkyPilot Network to reach the end user. It's an interesting way to work around high-cost customer premise equipment.
Update: A reader pointed out that I wasn't quite accurate in describing the SkyPilot system. After digging around SkyPilot's Web site, I confirmed the reader's comments--while SkyPilot uses 802.11 chipsets, its network isn't compatible with standard 802.11 gear. That means that end users can't use off-the-shelf PC cards or other standard user equipment to access the network. Customers must use SkyPilot antennas to receive the signal. As such, it's not clear how much cheaper the end user equipment is than 802.16 gear.
In a second update to this post, we have some additional information about the SkyPilot CPE. Jim Baker, Telabria's CEO, wrote to tell us that SkyPilot's CPEs retail for $349. He expects 802.16 CPEs to cost three times a much. Baker says that it's not totally relevant how much the SkyPilot CPE costs because Telabria gives them to customers. However, the cost of the CPE is totally relevant to the operator. Somebody has to pay for the CPE and historically the operator has heavily subsidized them because they're too expensive to ask customers to buy. High-cost CPEs have been blamed in part for the historical failure of MMDS where the economics never worked out for the operators.
Also note that Baker has clarified that Redline will supply the 802.16 backhaul equipment as well as enterprise CPEs.
The operator plans to target both residential users and businesses. It will also use the 802.16 network to backhaul hotspots that it is building in the area.
In other WiMax news, the WiMax Forum said it now has over 170 members including Lucent and LG Electronics. AOL and Deutsche Telecom also recently joined.