WiMax Spectrum Owners Launch WiSOA
September 26, 2006
Overseas players hope their new group will spur deployment.
The WiMax Spectrum Owners Alliance (WiSOA), launched last week at an inaugural meeting in Paris, is the first global organization composed exclusively of owners of WiMax spectrum. The founding members are Unwired Australia, Network Plus Mauritius, UK Broadband, Irish Broadband, Austar Australia/Liberty Group, Telecom New Zealand, WiMAX Telecom Group, Enertel and Woosh Telecom.
Patrick Cruise OBrien, the groups secretary general, says the driving concept behind WiSOA is to focus on the issues specific to those who are actually building businesses around WiMax.
The important thing to understand about WiSOA is its members have all had the WiMax debate, he says. We have all decided that WiMax is the future, and we have all committed to roll WiMax out within our businesses.
Still, thats not to say that the two cant cooperate. The GSM guys have massive capacity, massive coverage, and one of the things that weve agreed to do in WiSOA is to try and open a dialog with the GSM operators and say, Look, this is what we want to do; this is what you want to do, he says. They are at a significant advantage today, but if we can work together, we should be able to add value to each other.
One potential avenue of cooperation that was discussed at last weeks conference, OBrien says, was the idea of a form of mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)
OBrien says there are three key audiences for WiSOA regulators, vendors and the capital market. Its a heavily regulated industry, and it is really important that the regulators know and understand and appreciate the position from which the operators are coming, so were talking to them now at various levels in a number of different countries, he says.
For vendors, OBrien says, the aim is to explain the needs that operators have in terms of pricing and functionality. We want to go to the vendors and say, Look, these are the issues this is what it has to do, this is the price point at which it has to come in to make this viable and if you do all of this, if you can match these criteria, we are all customers, he says.
And for WiMax to succeed, OBrien says, significant amounts of institutional investment capital will be needed on a global basis. We want to try and make it as easy as possible for the large financial institutions to look at, evaluate and make a decision on whether as a commercial proposition it makes sense, he says. So a lot of our effort is going to be spent talking to the capital market.
One of the questions often asked about WiSOA, OBrien says, is how it differs from the WiMax Forum. The Forum is setting standards, establishing the technological rules under which WiMax will operate, while were at the sharp end of this weve all put money in this and weve all got businesses to run, so weve all got to get networks built; weve got to deal with the practical implications, he says.
Setting standards, OBrien says, requires a very different mindset from commercialization.
We are not engineers, he says. Were technically very savvy, we know this is a great business, but our job is to commercialize WiMax. We dont want to interfere with the standardization process, and were not a certification agency.
The groups next meeting will be in December, when reports will be made by three working groups one on roaming, one on fixed WiMax in emerging markets, and one on specification and joint procurement with vendors. Weve got to get the cost of deployment down to a point where its cost-effective to deploy much more rapidly than anybody is currently doing it, OBrien says.
For roaming in particular, OBrien says the hope is to agree upon some kind of basic administrative framework by the December meeting. Theres a great deal of debate within the WiMax industry about how, why, how much, how do you tariff and what weve decided to do is to spend the next two to three months figuring it all out for ourselves from the perspective of operators, he says.
Another aim by December is to expand the membership of the organization. Among the companies that WiSOA would like to bring into the fold are American leaders like Clearwire and Sprint. Were in a fairly substantial conversation with them, and we sincerely hope that we can convince them of the logic of an owners group, focusing on the issues that are relevant to owners, OBrien says.
Over the long term, WiSOAs aims are simple. We want to be a significant catalyst in speeding up the commercial deployment of WiMax, OBrien says. We think collectively that this is an extraordinary technology, this is an extraordinary time, this is an extraordinary business opportunity, and we want to do everything we can to expedite the deployment, and to deal with the issues and hurdles as they come along.