|Financial Times (London, England)
June 29, 2005 Wednesday
China unsure of WiMax strategy COUNTRY PROFILE: Beijing remains preoccupied with licences for 3G wireless, writes KC Swanson
BYLINE: By K C SWANSON
SECTION: FT REPORT - FT-IT REVIEW; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 584 words
At one time, WiMax, like 3G before it, was the darling of the Chinese wireless community, with claims that the broadband wireless internet service could help China leapfrog its old and inadequate phone infrastructure straight into the super-fast information age. But the government and operators have not yet concluded where WiMax will fit in the nation's telecom strategy.
Some analysts suggest that rather than becoming a core technology it is likely to assume more of a niche role, helping to bring fast wireless internet services to corporate campuses or geographies where laying fixed lines would be difficult or expensive.
"When you talk to engineers, they end up saying WiMax will rule the world," says Duncan Clark, managing director of telecom consultancy BDA China. "But you also have to bring in the politics, investment, marketing and strategy layers and figure out what consumers are willing to do."
China is likely to lag behind other nations in Asia and Europe in implementing WiMax, which broadcasts broadband wireless web service over distances of three to 10km. Support from the government, always a key factor in technology debuts, has so far been lacklustre. Beijing remains preoccupied by issuing licenses for 3G, an advanced wireless standard that could potentially compete with WiMax.
The powerful Ministry of Information Industry is "heavily invested in 3G," says Frank Zheng, chairman and chief executive of China Mobile Communications Research. For now, the government is not inclined to promote an alternative technology such as WiMax.
In May, the Singaporean government auctioned off wireless broadband spectrum rights to six bidders, but Chinese authorities are still debating which radio frequency to allocate for WiMax-related technology.
Meanwhile, China's telecom providers have not said how they would charge for WiMax services, particularly if it were used to offer internet-based voice calls. They remain reluctant to discuss their WiMax strategy or to detail ongoing trials.
Even tireless WiMax promoter Intel is keeping silentabout its trials in the cities of Dalian and Chengdu.
Yet some operators have been dabbling in broadband wireless access trials around the country for years. As long ago as 1996, Hebei Unicom, a division of China Unicom based in the province surrounding Beijing, started offering broadband wireless access to businesses and homes in the city of Chengde.
The service, using gear from Alvarion, expanded to 10 area cities. The need for new telecom technology is obvious: Hebei's 68m people have only 8.5m phones (fixed and mobile) .
Other broadband wireless trials have mostly taken place in or near urban areas where demand for broadband is greatest. While optimists suggest WiMax could help propel China's rural schools and hospitals into the internet era, it is likely to be promoted first in central business districts or on government campuses.
The advantage of WiMax is that it offers speedy data feeds of around 70 megabits per second compared to speeds of only about 2 to 4 megabits per second for 3G, says James Jiang, president of ZiMax, ZTE's WiMax subsidiary.
In theory, WiMax could siphon off business from 3G. But many industry observers seem doubtful, saying the two are likely to serve different markets. Technology advances could overtake the issue. ZTE is developing technology to support both WiMax and 3G in computers and PDAs, according to Mr Jiang, though he says dual-mode devices probably would not be available for another few years.
South China Morning Post
October 25, 2005
WiMax projects win $ 253m boost
BYLINE: Tim Culpan in Taipei
SECTION: TECHNOLOGY POST; Pg. 10
LENGTH: 530 words
The Taiwan government last week pledged money and political clout towards the development of the
WiMax communications standard on the island.
Signing a joint-collaboration deal with chipmaker Intel, Taiwan's economics ministry pledged NT$ 1.1 billion ($ 253 million) for WiMax development projects next year alone.
"WiMax is the most important technology selected under the 'M-Taiwan' project," said Lin Ferng-ching, minister without portfolio responsible for IT policy development.
Taiwan's four-year "Mobile Taiwan" project, initiated at the beginning of this year, aims to boost mobile infrastructure and technology and help IT manufacturers get a head start in the development of equipment for export.
Mr Lin said at least NT$ 7 billion of a total NT$ 37 billion in funding for M -Taiwan would be used for WiMax research and development.
WiMax is a high-speed, high-bandwidth wireless technology being developed primarily as a substitute for the last mile of a network connection into a building.
The ministry and Intel will jointly set up test networks so that manufacturers and service providers can test their products and fine-tune the technology.
Taiwanese companies are top developers and manufacturers of modems, routers and wireless access points. Adding government weight to the development of
WiMax is expected to give the new technology a leg up against competing technologies such as 3G and fibre optics.
To date, no WiMax products have been certified or produced, but a plugfest in Beijing next month is expected to kick off the first round of WiMax certifications.
If this goes smoothly, the first WiMax products, such as routers and access points, could be shipped in the first half of next year.
The economics ministry also pledged to facilitate the process of radio spectrum allocation, an important step in ensuring WiMax is allowed to be deployed.
With technological development proceeding smoothly, world business models and government policies around the world have yet to be completely formulated.
Initially slated as a high-speed alternative to ADSL or cable internet, the development of voice over internet protocol technology gives WiMax the potential to compete with 3G cellular telephony.
Operators around the world have spent billions of dollars on 3G licence fees and network rollouts, and the advent of WiMax is expected to be met with stiff opposition.
Licensing and spectrum allocation are likely to be the main concern. Both 2G and 3G wireless technology require licences and spectrum allocation. Wi-fi, however, has an open spectrum that does not require a licence. It is this open standard that has helped the proliferation of Wi-fi access points and devices.
"A carrier like us is suspicious of unlicensed bandwidth ... we prefer to use licensed bandwidth," said Feng Chian, vice-president of fixed-line operator Taiwan Fixed Network, a division of cellular operator Taiwan Mobile.
Whether licensed or unlicensed, having WiMax added to the list of networking alternatives in Taiwan is likely to force the entire sector to improve its equipment and services.
Financial Times (London, England)
November 10, 2005 Thursday
London Edition 1
Mobile competition comes calling JOHN GAPPER
BYLINE: By JOHN GAPPER
SECTION: LEADER; Pg. 19
LENGTH: 895 words
George W. Bush did not feel like chatting with Hugo Chavez, the firebrand president of Venezuela, at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina last week. But when the US president wants to talk to President Hu Jintao of China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in South Korea next week, it will be easy.
If Mr Bush needs to get hold of Mr Hu outside the formal meetings, they will be able to converse on their Wonder-Phones, helpfully supplied to those attending the summit by Korea Telecom. If Mr Bush feels inclined, he can have a video call with China's president while their motorcades drive around Busan, the Korean city where the summit will be held.
Big deal, you might say: anyone with a mobile phone can make a call from a car. But there is a difference. The Wonder-Phone is not a cellular phone: it uses a technology known as mobile WiMax - a kind of grown-up version of WiFi. And Mr Bush's call would be transmitted over an internet-protocol network, rather than the GSM or CDMA technology that dominates mobile telephony.
Probably the biggest wonder of the Wonder-Phone is that it exists at all. Technology seers have predicted the coming of WiMax for so long that a lot of people gave up waiting. You might have known it would emerge in South Korea, where broadband is commonplace and Samsung and LG Electronics are among the world's biggest phone manufacturers.
Having shown off its WiMax service (called WiBro) in Busan, Korea Telecom plans to launch it in Seoul next year. Seoul will be the first WiMax-covered city, but others from Philadelphia to Amsterdam are becoming giant WiFi hotspots. They will have WiFi mesh networks, allowing anyone within their city boundaries to view the internet on a laptop or mobile device.
WiMax and WiFi mesh networks extend the broadband connectivity that is common in homes and offices to cities. That is good for consumers. It promises greater convenience - they will no longer have to search for a cafe with a WiFi hotspot - and the possibility of making voice calls on the move using internet phone services such as Skype.
Conversely, it unsettles companies such as Vodafone and Cingular. Until now, they have faced no external competition for mobile data or voice services. If people walking in cities can call each other free via Skype, why would they pay a cellular tariff? What will protect mobile operators from the same price pressures now facing fixed line companies?
Cellular companies are not standing still: many sell 3G broadband services. Verizon Wireless has launched a service across 60 cities that provides a fast internet connection for Dollars 60 per month. But Verizon is clearly wary of cannibalising its cellular revenues. Subscribers are barred from using their 3G data connections to make voice calls via the internet.
The company that could lose most from WiMax is Qualcomm, which not only makes mobile phone chips but holds many patents relating to CDMA standards. Korean companies such as Samsung and LG Electronics are estimated to have paid Qualcomm Dollars 2.8bn last year. "Qualcomm has tied the mobile industry up in knots with patents," says Keith Woolcock of Westhall Capital, the stockbrokers.
Relations within the industry are already tense. Qualcomm sued Nokia this week for allegedly breaching its patents after six companies including Nokia complained to the European Commission about the US company. In contrast, WiMax and WiFi are open standards and companies that make devices that use these networks will not have to pay licence fees.
Furthermore, Qualcomm's US west coast rival Intel is backing WiMax. One of Intel's biggest recent successes is the Centrino chip, designed to help laptops link to WiFi networks. Intel is now developing WiMax chips and is at the head of a broader effort by Silicon Valley companies to dominate the next generation of mobile devices and technology, known as 4G.
It is a little early to sound the death knell for cellular technology. As Qualcomm executives tirelessly point out, mobile WiMax has yet to prove itself and faces many obstacles. Cellular technology is sophisticated and in place: networks blanket most countries. Not only is WiMax a vision rather than a reality in most places but companies are still working out the mobile WiMax standard.
Even supporters of WiMax doubt whether it will be a direct competitor to cellular technology in the near future. By the time companies are considering whether to invest money in WiMax masts and equipment to cover many cities, cellular operators will have 3G data services in place and will be offering them cheaply enough to make it tough for new entrants to gain a foothold.
But the threat of WiMax is already keeping phone companies honest: they must keep an eye over their shoulders when setting charges for 3G mobile broadband in the lucky places with WiMax or a WiFi network. The same goes for voice calls. Korea Telecom plans to offer phones that switch between WiBro and cellular networks, depending on which is cheaper.
Ultimately, it is hard to see the closed networks and licensing deals of the cellular world surviving intact. By the time 4G services arrive - some time after 2010 - internet standards will have come to mobile telephony. If Mr Bush talks into his Wonder-Phone next week, he will be one of the few to have used WiMax. But where Busan goes, other cities will follow.