Broadband service provider Speakeasy today announced it has deployed a “pre-WiMAX” network in Seattle that will serve as a testbed for the company’s WiMAX rollouts when equipment is available, Speakeasy President and CEO Bruce Chatterley said.

Chatterley said the OFDM-based network will provide non-line-of-sight wireless connectivity that will deliver 6 Mb/s data rates for $800 per month--a price point designed to appeal to enterprises that have exhausted their 3 Mb/s T-1 lines but cannot afford a $6000-per-month DS-3 connection.

Speakeasy’s current network covering five square miles in Seattle’s downtown area will feature Alvarion’s base-station and end-user hardware and technology that leverages Speakeasy’s strategic relationship with Intel to deliver a “WiMAX-equivalent” solution, according to a Speakeasy press release. Chatterley said Seattle would serve as a testbed to prepare Speakeasy to deploy actual WiMAX solutions--when gear becomes available late this year or early in 2006--in Seattle and its other markets.

“It really is a WiMAX experience, from the data user’s perspective--they won’t notice any difference when we deploy the WiMAX gear,” Chatterley said. “We’re doing this to bust all the myths about the hype surrounding WiMAX and prove that the business model can work.”

One area where the WiMAX upgrade will be particularly beneficial is in offering voice-over-IP (VoIP) services. Speakeasy’s current system has the bandwidth to support VoIP, base-station processors are not fast enough to ensure high voice quality if there are a large number of calls being made through a given base station simultaneously, Chatterley said. Intel’s Rosedale processor that will be in WiMAX gear is fast enough to resolve that issue, he said.

Chatterley said Speakeasy turned on the Seattle network today and is processing orders so that service can be provided to users within 30 days. By June 15, Speakeasy expects to be able to take orders and deliver service within 48 hours--a considerably quicker timetable than the 18 to 21 days required to install a T-1 line, Chatterley said.