Ground-breaking work leads to broader Wi-fi coverage

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am

Altai Technologies has been voted the grand-award winner in the Technological Achievement category for its pioneering work in wireless technology.

Altai, which was established in 2002 and spun off from Applied Science and Technology Research Institute in 2006, focuses on the development of outdoor wireless broadband technologies. It seeks to use smart antenna technologies and advanced signal processing algorithm to provide city-wide Wi-fi coverage for users of mobile phones, notebooks and pocket PCs.

Lin Chi-hung, chief executive and president of Altai, said: 'We are delighted to win a grand award in the Hong Kong Awards for Industries and gain recognition from the judges. This is a significant encouragement for us, as a home-grown company, to compete with world-leading companies in the global market of wireless technologies.'

The A8 Wi-fi cellular base station (Altai A8), the prize-winning product, was developed by Hong Kong engineers.

The pioneering technology optimises the micro-cellular networks to offer end-users rich and real-time broadband services, that can enhance the outdoor Wi-fi signal coverage area 10 times more than typical hot-spots.

The antennas of the base station can be configured to cover an area of up to 2km. It is designed using simple networking facilities and without any need for a high density of wireless service users. The upgraded wireless network system, which used up to 70 per cent less access points than most Wi-fi systems, could therefore reduce the cost of deploying network equipment, broadband access, planning, site acquisition and installation, Mr Lin said. 'It's been a dream of IT professionals to break through the distant barrier of the wireless networking technology that can evolve from an indoor technology to one that can be deployed outdoors,' Mr Lin said.

'The population is more mobile than ever, and the demand for accessing internet any time, anywhere is growing.'

With the demand for mobile access to the internet, he is confident the cost-effective base station will outperform competitors worldwide and it will be a predominant trend in the wireless-network device market.

With its technology deployed in more than 25 countries, including the United States, the mainland and Malaysia, the judging panel praised the company for 'showcasing Hong Kong's original and innovative technology in worldwide markets, and so they are a prime example of the competence of Hong Kong-based technology companies'.

The panel of judges was co-ordinated by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation.

The technology is already making its presence felt in rural areas of the United States. A town near Chicago, with a population of less than 40,000, uses Altai A8 base stations as the main device to provide Wi-fi network for the area. Last year, New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation upgraded the Wi-fi network with a multiradio base station to provide free public Wi-fi access 24 hours a day in Washington Square Park.

A Wi-fi service provider in New York said Altai A8 was the best solution to build a reliable network with wide coverage and the ability to support a large number of simultaneous users.

Mr Lin hopes the new device will be deployed in campuses and parks in Hong Kong. However, because of the small market here, Mr Lin regards the city as a base from which to develop the technology and a hub for marketing.

'It's impossible for an IT company to survive if we make our living just from the demand in the local market,' he said, explaining that Altai has been targeting rural areas in developed and developing areas such as the mainland, eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

By working with local network service providers, Altai is able to provide the hardware for Wi-fi base stations and related technologies at a cheaper price.

It is cheaper for local communities to install a wireless service device to ensure access for residents in rural areas. The compact version of Altai A8 will fit in indoor areas like shopping malls or airports.

Mr Lin said the sales price of Altai A8 would be at least 50 per cent cheaper than competing brands.