Stories by Matthew Sainsbury and Rob O'Neill

New Zealand has WiMax opportunities, says analyst

Analyst firm Frost & Sullivan's "Asia Pacific WiMax Opportunity" study claims the Asia-Pacific region will have as many as 43 million WiMax subscribers by the end of 2013 and generate revenues of $US11 billion (NZ$14.6 billion) at a compound annual growth rate of 45% from 2007-2013.
However, while Australia is expected to make up just 2% of that WiMax subscriber base, Frost & Sullivan senior industry analyst Marc Einstein says New Zealand is different in several ways.
He says New Zealand is like Australia in having an effective service duopoly delivering services at high prices and low speeds, but the recent auction of WiMax spectrum and the presence of Woosh "opens some interesting possibilities".
"There is definitely a positive regulatory environment and players deploying WiMax," he says.
Einstein, based in Singapore, agrees Woosh's recent financial results are not good. In February it recorded a loss of $8.8 million for the year to 30 June 2007 and secured further investment capital.
Providers such as Woosh and Australia's Unwired, he says, are not as powerful as companies such as Telecom. However, smaller providers could end up coming together or someone new could come in and buy spectrum or buy Woosh, he says.
One further significant difference between Australia and New Zealand is that both Vodafone and Telecom now own WiMax spectrum.
"It makes it interesting, but they haven't come out and said they are going to cover both islands in WiMax," he says. sometimes companies just by spectrum to sit on it and "kill it", he says.
In the end, the success of the technology here and elsewhere will depend on uptake overseas driving the cost of customer premise equipment down, he says.
Across the ditch, the cancellation of the OPEL subsidy by the government and the improvement of the quality and uptake of the Telstra broadband network will relegate WiMax technology to a niche project, Einstein says.
The OPEL fallout would have a broader negative for internet development in Australia, he says.
"Despite progress made in broadband in Australia, speeds are still lower than elsewhere in Asia-Pacific," Einstein says.
He highlights emerging Asian nations as some of the highest growth opportunities for WiMax because of its ability to provide data and connectivity at speeds of up to 1Mbit/s.
"Australia and New Zealand tend to behave like Europe in regards to broadband. Some Asian markets don't have 3G at all, and when it comes it will be limited to the big cities," Einstein says. "Additionally, Japan and South Korea are the real pioneers of WiMax and will improve uptake by embedding chipsets in objects such as cameras and games consoles."
Telstra and Optus were expected to trial rival LTE (long-term evolution) technology over the next 3-5 years in Australia, he says, and with vendors such as Motorola throwing support behind the standard, the current advantage WiMax has having certified products in the market would not last.
However, Einstein points out WiMax's greater coverage potential compared to rival technologies like 3G could make it a better option for rural areas.
Despite the OPEL fallout, a number of companies have thrown weight behind WiMax in Australia. Sprint and Clearwire alliance have announced plans to rollout a national WiMax network, while Telarus and wireless broadband provider, Clever Communications, announced a national WiMax service partnership earlier this month.