Friday, March 16, 2007

Aussies and Kiwis sampling Dutch broadband (3)

The delegates of the Australian and New Zealand trade mission have gone their own way now. A small group visited the broadcast hotspot of Nuenen in the South of the Netherlands. One of the delegates went on to Stockholm; another one went to Manchester in the UK, while other moved on to the CeBIT fair in Germany. And the civil servants in the trade mission went to The Hague to consult with their Dutch counterparts.

(c) Elaine Sullivan

But before they left Almere they went to visit the Hopling company for wireless communications. The company is three years old and employs some 60 people in Almere. It started out as a garage company, where young Ivo van Ling (see photograph) put together his first radio antenna. (The first antenna has been preserved in their company museum). The company has gone through a fast growth curve. It is of course not just the antennas that will sell the service. But it is the basic concept of hardware, software, communications and services like the managed services.

Australia is a very unbalance country demographically. The majority of the inhabitants live in the cities, which are located towards the edges of the continent. One would expect that the wireless services would be interesting to Australia given the size of the country and the amount of sparsely inhabited land. Wireless in the countryside could be an alternative for the costly broadband fixed lines. But so far the efforts have mostly been concentrated on wireless city networks such as Amsterdam and Zoetermeer in The Netherlands and Las Vegas in the USA as well as Abbotsford in Canada.

Hopling got started with KPN Hotspots, which has over 1000 nodes now. After that the networks were installed recreation park, gas stations and soccer stadiums like the Philips stadium in Eindhoven (PSV) and the Arena stadium in Amsterdam (Ajax). In Amsterdam hotspots have been installed, but also two hotzones by The Cloud. All the Dutch islands in The North of The Netherlands (Texel, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog) have been equipped with hotspots for tourists. And the city of Dokkum, where Christianity in The Netherlands was started by saint Boniface, has also been equipped.

Most interesting is of course to see other networks arise like on railway stations. The Dutch railway company has fitted out some 40 stations with hotspots; not just a wireless open Lan for the passengers, but also a secured LAN for their personnel to pass on the latest instructions and check the positions of the trains. For the narrowcasting company ON of Heineken, Hopling designed networks for bars and discos. One of their latest projects is the Streetlight Project of the city of Zoetermeer. The streetlight poles in Zoetermeer have two screens: a small one with a touch-screen streetmap and a larger one higher on the pole for advertising; also a wifi camera for public surveillance is attached. Interesting are also the mobile services provided to railway and bus companies. By gatewaying wireless networks into UMTS and HDSPA wifi access points can be created for using computers in the trains and busses.

Of course the state of art of WIMAX was discussed. Hopling is participating in the standardisation process and preparing itself for it. In the meantime it is expanding worldwide by co-operating with local representatives. The Australian and New Zealand delegates could start negotiating on the spot.

Blog Posting Number: 694

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