Inquam lands Another Euro WiMax License

Inquam Broadband GmbH , the European wireless broadband venture majority owned by NextWave Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: WAVE), has bagged a WiMax spectrum license in Switzerland for just a few million dollars. (See Inquam Gets Swiss WiMax License.)

Inquam, which already owns a countrywide WiMax spectrum license in Germany, has acquired a Swiss national 3.5GHz broadband wireless access license for just 5.8 million Swiss francs ($4.8 million). In Germany, Inquam paid €17.6 million ($24 million) for its national 3.5GHz license, one of five awarded by the regulator. (See Euro WiMax RFPs Heat Up.)

The wireless startup, a joint venture between NextWave and financial investors, is now looking to team up with other service providers to help launch services.

A NextWave spokesman says that while it's premature to say exactly what Inquam's business model will be, it "will be more focused on working with partners who would deliver services to the market themselves. But that doesn't mean Inquam won't build its own distribution outlets to deliver services."

NextWave is still hungry for spectrum, but would not specify where it plans to invest next. "We continue to be on the lookout to expand our spectrum footprint internationally and in the U.S.," says the spokesman.

One target could be Italy where 3.5GHz spectrum is set to be auctioned next month. (See Spectrum up for Grabs in Europe.)

Inquam, which paid just $4.8 million (the minimum price) for its license because it was the only bidder, becomes the third 3.5GHz license holder in Switzerland. Swisscom Mobile AG paid the minimum amount of CHF 6.1 million ($5 million) in an auction in late 2005, again because it was the only bidder. Cable operator UPC Cablecom was awarded its 3.5GHz license in 2000, but appears to have done little with it. Cablecom's license expires in 2010.

Currently, the potential uses of the spectrum are limited to fixed wireless broadband connections, as the Swiss 3.5GHz licenses do not allow for mobility. That, though, could change, according to Swiss regulator, the Federal Office of Communication (OFCOM).

"Mobility is foreseen [in 3.5 GHz]," says an OFCOM spokesman. "As soon as this band is open and amended for mobile use… we'll quickly adopt that and we're quite sure that will come."

Swisscom, which plans to use WiMax to provide broadband services to the 2 percent of the population it can't reach with DSL, recently launched a trial in the canton of Berne, "up in the mountains," with equipment from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), says a Swisscom spokesman. (See Swisscom Trials WiMax and Swisscom Pilots WiMax.)

Swisscom says it's not interested in WiMax for mobility. "We have great coverage with HSDPA… about 50 percent of the population so far," says a spokesman.

There is one last 3.5GHz license left in Switzerland and the regulator does not yet know what to do with it. "As we have not had much success with the other two auctions, we're not planning to auction this license," says an Ofcom spokesman. "But if there are other operators interested in regional or local [deployments], they could apply for some frequency."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In