Tatung beats competitors to Wimax

14 May 2009

Taiwan became the latest Asia-Pacific market to see Wimax go commercial with Tatung InfoComm\'s launch last month. Now the company wants its fellow licensees to move faster to expand Wimax coverage nationwide.

Tatung - one of three awarded Wimax licenses for southern Taiwan in mid-2007, along with Far EasTone and cable TV operator Vastar - kicked off Wimax service on Penghu Island off the southwest coast of Taiwan and intends to expand coverage to Kaoshiung in time for the World Games in mid-July.

Tatung president Peter Yen said that he wants to see the island\'s other five Wimax operators - including northern licensees Fitel, Global Mobile and Vmax Telecom - move faster in their launches to improve overall service coverage.

\'I don\'t want to be the only one,\' Yen told Telecom Asia. \'I need more coverage so my users can roam around Taiwan and still have service.\'

The northern and southern Wimax players have provisional roaming agreements in place to make Wimax coverage ostensibly nationwide. However, all of them had hoped to have Wimax services up and running at various points by the end of 2008, but postponed launches until sometime this year.

Tatung planned to go fully commercial in Penghu before the end of 2008, but instead went with a soft launch in November, and found itself plagued with coverage issues, especially indoors and on the upper levels of high-rise buildings, says Yen.

As such, Tatung ended up nearly doubling its base station deployments to 21 sites, which boosted indoor coverage to 80% and street-level coverage to 90%. Yen didn\'t say how much additional capex was spent on the extra base stations, but Tatung chairman WS Lin told Digitimes that Tatung\'s Wimax capex over the next three years would exceed $147.5 million.
Tatung\'s Wimax service isn\'t straight broadband access - it comes with plenty of value-add, such as VoIP, mobile TV, music and Google Video. It\'s priced competitively against both ADSL and 3.5G services at $21 a month, although Yen says he\'s not marketing it as a DSL replacement service.

Tatung\'s chief pitch against 3.5G is faster speeds (8 Mbps down, around 3 Mbps up) and more flexible, easy access to popular services. How will that hold up when LTE arrives in the next three to five years‾ Yen says he\'s not only ready for LTE, but also is prepared to adopt it himself.

\'The vendor we\'re working with [Alcatel-Lucent] has an LTE evolution plan so that we don\'t waste our investment,\' he said. \'So that when LTE comes to Taiwan, I can evolve my Wimax network to LTE.\'

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