There was big news today for anybody wanting better access to the internet with two significant announcements regarding wireless broadband access.

BigPond today stepped up the competition for 3G mobile data, while Unwired announced it plans to take on a $37 million investment from Intel Capital to help it roll out a WiMax high-speed broadband network.

First, Telstra, which is about to take advantage of its new network sharing arrangement with Hutchison’s Three 3G mobile phone network, has announced a high speed wireless Internet offering.

The BigPond Wireless Internet is available for both Desktop PC and Laptop users and provides wireless broadband access in selected areas. Where high speed 3G cellular is not available, the system will automatically switch users back to Tesltra’s 2.5G CDMA1X network.

The two networks combined will offer Internet access at least twice the speed of dial-up across a staggering 98 per cent of the population.

At top speed, users will get download speeds of up to 256kbps or 512kbps, depending on their chosen plan (nine times standard dial-up) then at its worst access speeds will drop to 80-100kbps (bursts up to 144kbps) outside the broadband coverage areas.

There is a choice of hardware, a PC card for laptops ($299) and a wireless modem ($199) for desktops giving renters, ad hoc networkers and those outside ADSL and cable coverage a chance to boost their speed.

 BigPond’s Wireless Broadband Mobile Card costs $299 (RRP) on plans starting from $69.95 per month on a 12 month plan, once installed. The Wireless Broadband Modem costs $199 (RRP) on plans priced from $34.95 per month on a 12 month plan once installed.

Unwired Australia, which has been looking a little shaky due to cash burn gobbling up its capital announced Intel Capital has agreed to the investment via secured convertible notes issued in 45 days and maturing in August 2009. The investment will require approval by Uniwred’s shareholders at a meeting planned for October.

The $37 million (approximately US$27.9) is part of the companies’ efforts to advance the deployment of WiMAX networks. Unwired will use the proceeds primarily to expand its existing services to other major Australian cities, but as part of the announcement, the two have agreed to jointly promote mobile wireless broadband capabilities using WiMAX.

Unwired plans to adopt future Intel products that support the upcoming IEEE 802.16e standard for WiMAX solutions intended to be deployed in infrastructure equipment and notebooks.

“Twelve months ago wireless broadband was on the horizon, but today it’s an accepted and trusted option for thousands of customers as evidenced by the rapid growth of customers for our Sydney business,” said Unwired CEO David Spence. “Intel Capital’s investment will enable us to make wireless broadband available to a greater number of Australians and to quickly move to WiMAX in other cities as equipment becomes available.”

Unwired has the box seat for true wireless broadband in Australia as it has almost exclusive access to the WiMAX-designated 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz licensed bands in Australia’s major metropolitan areas, said Spence.

Unwired will initially deploy technology from U.S.-based broadband wireless access solutions provider, Navini Networks, for its WiMAX networks. Dual-mode customer modems and base stations, which can operate Unwired’s current proprietary technology and WiMAX-based technology concurrently, will be available in the first half of 2006.

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