WiMAX operators to bridge north-south divide

16 Aug 2007

Two of Taiwan’s six new WiMAX licensees, Vastar Cable and Vmax Telecom, have revealed a plan to combine their regional networks to provide national wireless broadband coverage, reports the Taipei Times. Pay-TV operator Vastar Cable won a WiMAX concession for the south of the country, alongside domestic GSM/UMTS network operator Far EasTone and Tatung Co, whilst Vmax Telecom won a permit for the north, with the other two going to domestic PHS mobile operator First International Telecom (Fitel) and Global On Corp. Vmax Telecom is a 50/50 joint venture of telecom equipment manufacturer Tecom and W-CDMA operator Vibo Telecom, Taiwan’s youngest facilities-based cellco, which bid under the name Wei Mai Si Telecom. Vmax and Vastar yesterday signed an agreement to provide WiMAX services nationwide, beginning next summer. ‘It will be difficult [to survive] by providing telecom services just in a specific region. We believe Vastar will complement our service,’ said James Tsao, vice chairman of Vibo. ‘We don’t want our subscribers to worry about paying higher rates during a 30-minute trip down south,’ Vmax president Teddy Huang added. The strategic alliance would allow Vmax to provide convergent, or triple-play, telecoms services, as Vastar is a fixed line and cable TV operator in Taichung, according to Tsao. Vmax plans to launch its WiMAX service next June, two months earlier than its original schedule, chief financial officer Ruth Chang told reporters at a signing ceremony. The company hopes to sign up 80,000 subscribers by the end of next year, and aims to break even by the first half of 2010, Chang said. To fund the construction of WiMAX networks, Vmax, which has TWD1 billion (USD30 million) in capital, plans to raise a further TWD2 billion by selling new shares to existing shareholders and institutional investors such as Intel Capital before the end of this year, according to Chang.