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BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions

Domestic reports out of the U.K. confirm what Unstrung readers already knew. BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) looks set to re-enter the mobile market using WiMax or similar wireless broadband technology.

Back in October, we reported that BT was plotting to bid on a wireless broadband spectrum auction in the in the 2.5GHz to 2.69GHz band in order to offer a new mobile services using WiMax. (See BT to Go WiMax?.) Now the London newspaper The Independent confirms that BT is ready to bid on the WiMax bandwidth.

"We are naturally interested in the potential of this spectrum and we continue to assess its possible uses, including the possibility of WiMax," a BT spokesperson tells the paper.

British regulatory body Ofcom is due to open up spectrum in the 2.5GHz to 2.69GHz band in January 2008. Auctions are expected to be held early in 2007.

Our original sources suggested that the U.K. fixed-line operator will add to its existing "Fusion" fixed/mobile convergence service, which currently combines WiFi and cellular, by buying up the spectrum for mobile WiMax services and combining that with GSM cellular services.

The operator, which exited the cellular market five years ago with the spin-off of Telefónica Europe plc (O2) , now needs to ramp up its wireless offerings again in order to compete with operators such as Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) and the proliferation of "triple-play" offers in the U.K.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Dredgie 12/5/2012 | 3:32:38 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions They must have already been kicking the tires from a hardware vendor perspective. Anyone know?
ramsu 12/5/2012 | 3:32:37 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions (How) can BT catch-up to triple-play/quad-play opportunities with this late start? Looks like an expensive game from where they are.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:34 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions I continue to hear about multi-path issues with Wi-Max mobile. While it works in a stationary, or even a "luggable" format, is this what BT really intends to use it for?
Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 3:32:32 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions The problem for mobile WiMax is not technology (which looks good).

But what do you want to use it for?

In developed economies there is a lot of underused 3G capacity already deployed. If the market doesnGÇÖt want, or canGÇÖt afford, to use this, why build another network?
digits 12/5/2012 | 3:32:31 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions "In developed economies there is a lot of underused 3G capacity already deployed. If the market doesnGÇÖt want, or canGÇÖt afford, to use this, why build another network?"

A simplistic answer: History repeats itself.

When did the existance of other under-utilized networks ever stop the construction of other networks?

BT wants to be in the mobility game. It doesn't have a convincing marketing strategy if it doesn't have spectrum, no matter what technology it uses to activate wireless connectivity.

The U.K. is a classic example of an economy that is replete with communications capacity that is under-utilized, and I'm not just talking about telecom networks.

Gabe - you ask:
"But what do you want to use it for?"
The answer? In BT's case, to provision services without involving a third party where the economics of acquiring the spectrum DON'T put you in the financual doghouse. Allegedly.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:28 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions Dear Gabriel:
While some cellular vendors struggle under backhaul loads, I suspect that overall, the price of those extra 3G data services are too high to generate uptake. Remember those unused phones in airplanes? Now, the wheels are barely down when half the plane has opened their own cell phone, while those on-board phones gather more dust.

All corporations want are dual mode phones and more hot spots for cheap, high bandwidth, application use, like sending an entire customer history, or updated inventory list, to a sales guy as he prepares for a remote meeting. 3G may be there, but it is unused because the price is too high, not because demand is not there. The folks at Sprint claim that Wi-Max is 10 cheaper than cellular. I suspect this is the air interface only. That is why people are looking at new networks.
Gabriel Brown 12/5/2012 | 3:32:27 AM
re: BT Confirms WiMax Ambitions The market has spoken on pricing of 3G. ItGÇÖs not attractive.

IGÇÖm doing some research on 3G data pricing around the world. Services are expensive everywhere, even if some of the underlying costs are different (e.g. spectrum license fees).

WiMax does have wider channel widths and so is faster. It may even be more spectrally efficient (although some argue the difference is quite small).

But a WiMax network still needs spectrum, cell sites, base stations, backhaul, terminals, unit volumes, marketing, support, etc. These are the costs that add up. An increase in spectral efficiency and wider channel widths is likely not enough to really change these economics in the foreseeable future.

The best thing for WiMax (or whatever OFDMA variant) would be to see demand for services swamp the capacity on 3G networks.

As you noted, WiFi attacks wide area wireless technologies by being good enough, enough of the time.
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