NEC XON, Mimosa bring hybrid fibre wireless to SA

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Andrew Westerman, head of sales at Mimosa, by Airspan.
Andrew Westerman, head of sales at Mimosa, by Airspan.

US-based wireless broadband solutions provider Mimosa, by Airspan has collaborated with systems integrator NEC XON, to bring affordable hybrid-fibre-wireless (FiWi) services to South African businesses and homes.

FiWi networks, according to Mimosa, involve wireless devices mounted at fibre locations, transmitting signals wirelessly from point to point and ultimately to each subscriber.

While these networks are fed with a fibre connection to the Internet backbone, they are still considered “wireless” networks because of the way they transmit signal.

Using millimetre wave technology, FiWi allows the deployment of less expensive networks to provide a convenient, non-time-consuming alternative to purely fibre solutions.

Announcing the partnership at the NEC XON Summit 2019 yesterday at Sun City, in the North West Province, Andrew Westerman, head of sales at Mimosa by Airspan, explained FiWi is perceived as a promising technology for next-generation broadband, especially beneficial for customers living in rural and under-developed regions.

“This brand new partnership, signed two weeks ago with NEC XON, aims to bring low-cost high-speed connectivity to the South African masses. We see the South African market as a huge opportunity to provide good quality connectivity to areas which have no or poor quality Internet connectivity, including homes, businesses and schools in marginalised areas,” explained Westerman.

“If you go to the UK, for instance, almost every house has fibre or WiFi, but if you go to the developing countries, like SA, we are still seeing a large part of the population not having Internet access in their homes. Our products are designed to bring Internet connectivity at lower cost to the masses.”

Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Silicon Valley, Mimosa provides wireless broadband solutions to service providers, enterprises, industrial and government operators across the globe, delivered by members of its partner programme.

In November 2018, the company was acquired by Airspan Networks, a4G and 5G densification solutions provider, resulting in it changing its name to Mimosa, by Airspan.

The partnership will see NEC XON provide its base stations and the architecture, while Mimosa provides the wireless technologies, with the services distributed by local Internet service providers, including Afrihost, Internet Solutions and Home Connect.

Westerman noted that over the years, Internet connectivity has evolved from initial dial-up connections, DSL and cable offerings, to fibre and wireless for broadband connectivity.

Network operators that once relied exclusively on fibre or wireless are now being compelled to diversify for a combination of reasons, such as the high costs and time-consuming task of rolling out fibre networks, he explained.

“Ideally, it would be great to install fibre solutions everywhere in SA, but the reality is that due to cost and time factors, this is not possible. Fibre allows a fibre connection only up to a certain point, where it makes economic sense to do so, but then beyond that you can use wireless to extend that connection to a place where the home or business is, providing the best combination in terms of cost, convenience and speed. But fibre remains a key point of the solution because typically you are adding wireless to the top.”

While FiWi is not new, the concept around it has evolved as more resellers recognise its value and potential, he adds. It is particularly useful in allowing traffic from an affected optical network unit to be effectively re-routed to backup wireless connections in the event of a distribution fibre failure.

“The reason we are able to bring this service at low cost is because we don’t operate on the same model as mobile operators, who spend multimillion-rands buying spectrum from the government. The spectrum that we use is the 5GHz band, which is licensed for free, and the equipment we use is also significantly cheaper than that used by telco operators, hence they provide Internet services at much high prices.”

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