BT to Go WiMax?
Several industry sources I've spoken to suggest 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 spectrum for mobile WiMax services and combining that with GSM cellular services.
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 late this year or early in 2007. These frequencies are prime WiMax ranges.
Sources expect BT to go aggressively after that spectrum. "They have to," says one industry figure. "Otherwise Vodafone owns everything."
BT officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story.
The firm has publicly stated it is testing WiMax gear from Navini Networks Inc. in Birmingham.
Fusion, BT's wireless service for consumer and enterprise customers currently allows users to talk over a WiFi hotspot when in range and roam onto Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s GSM network when out of range. Bringing WiMax into the mix would allow BT to provide much more coverage than WiFi hotspots alone can provide.
Some chip startups here at the show are also showing off WiMax/EDGE/GSM chipsets that could be used in multimode phones. Comsys Communications & Signal Processing Ltd. says it will start sampling such a chip next year. This kind of silicon will be a necessary building block for such converged services.
BT, however, may not be the only company eyeing the U.K. auctions. Sources also expect that cash-rich U.S. startup Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) could be looking to score a chunk of "beach-front" broadband bandwidth, as well.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung