October 25, 2005 By Blake Harris
Enforta BV and Moscow-based InfiNet Wireless, have concluded a deal that will create the largest WiMAX network in the Russian Federation, one that is expected to span 28 major cities within the next two years.
Initial deployment for the network has already proven successful in Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, with a population of just over 2 million. About two thirds of the city is now covered, approximately 15 square miles. And by early next year, Enforta plans to extend wireless service to 10 additional cities.
Internet penetration in Russia is still below 20 percent of the total population, and broadband access is below 2 percent. It is Moscow and St. Petersburg that make up much of that two percent. "This new network will mean that tens of thousands of Russians in medium-to-large sized cities across the country will finally be able to easily and affordably obtain broadband access," said Lee Sparkman, president of Enforta.
Enforta, now headquartered in Amsterdam, Netherlands, was founded in 2003 by a group of Russian and international telecommunication industry executives to provide broadband wireless and other state-of-the-art telecommunication technologies to Russia's regional capitals. Today, the company is 50% owned by the Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corp. and it already has significant operator holdings throughout Russia, providing SOHO (Small Office Home Office) and medium sized business with telecommunication services such as high speed Internet, local and national telephony, email and website hosting.
The development of a wireless network in cities poorly served by high speed wired access -- in part because of the investment needed to upgrade aging wired infrastructure -- is as much as anything a strategic business decision on the part of Enforta.
In partnering with InfiNet Wireless, which will provide all the wireless equipment for the network, Enforta is turning to what it believes is world class Russian technology. "InfiNet Wireless was a natural choice for the project due to their strong local presence, technical support and superb Russian R&D center," Sparkman said.
According to Robert Stubblebine, CEO of InfiNet Wireless, his company landed the deal with Enforta by beating out Alvarion Ltd. for the contract. "Based on real-life field trial deployments, Enforta confirmed that we had superior throwput and ranges as well as greater non-line of sight capabilities, although we don't even boast of having non-line of sight using OFDM technology," explained Stubblebine. "We have near line of sight. But the degree of non-line of sight we have to offer was superior to what Alvarion was offering."
InfiNet is an interesting company. Intel is a strategic investor in the firm with an equity share. And after 13 years of intense engineering work by their own R & D labs, the company has established a leading position in fixed wireless installations in Russia and Eastern Europe. Its equipment has been used in more than 300 carrier-class wireless networks throughout the world, including China and the Middle East.
The company's technology actually emerged from the Soviet Union's cold-war military industrial complex, where scientists, engineers and technologists worked in closed, secret cities to develop everything from nuclear weapons, conventional weapons and other defense technologies such as radio and computers.
"We found some pretty amazing voice and data radio transmission programmers in the closed military industrial city of Ekaterinburg where our R & D and production is currently located," Stubblebine