Taiwan’s newest operator, Vmax, has opened its NT$2 billion ($63 million) Wimax network with an ad-based service to taxis and bargain-priced netbooks.
The company, backed by Intel and local electronics firms, has built a network in metropolitan Taipei and plans to extend the service across northern Taiwan.
The centrepiece of its launch in Taipei yesterday was a free Wimax service to taxi passengers, which president and CEO Teddy Huang said was already yielding “much more” than the expected ARPU of NT$500-NT$600 per user.
It is available in 1,000 taxis in the city and will be deployed in 20,000, Vmax executives said.
They also announced the first products, Wimax-capable netbooks from Asus and Acer, that could be bought for a two-year contract at NT$456 a month – two-thirds off the retail price.
Vmax was awarded one of six regional licenses in July 2007 and it claims to be the first to start commercial service.
While Taiwan has over 100% penetration in mobile phones and widespread access to cable and DSL broadband, Wimax is seen by the government and investors as a opportunity for its PC and networking firms.
Vmax’s biggest investor is 3G operator Vibo Telecom, which is controlled by appliance firm Kinpo. Local electrical firm Teco is also a backer, with its affiliate Tecom supplying the Wimax network.
Another Vmax shareholder is Wimax’s prime mover, Intel, which has taken stakes in a number of Wimax operators around the world.
Intel executives told a media briefing that Wimax operators around the world are using a variety of business models “that worked.”
Rama Shukla, vice president of Intel architecture group, said Russian operator Yota had reached operational break-even after just five months offering music and video downloads over its high-speed network.
He said worldwide 11 major PC and notebook manufacturers were offering Wimax-embedded devices.