Taiwan Mobile wants government to kill off WiMAX

Cliff Lai, the president of Taiwan Mobile, is pitching for Taiwan's government to cancel existing WiMAX licenses and open up the spectrum for LTE.

Lai contends the government needs an exit mechanism for WiMAX networks, which he said offer data speeds that are far too slow, according to a ZDNet Asia article, which translated Lai's remarks from an interview on Business Next.

Lai suggested spectrum licensed for WiMAX operations in Taiwan could be released for LTE, which he contended has been held back because of inadequate spectrum availability. "Since the development for WiMax has not gone well, the government should recover the spectrum allotted to WiMax and drive the development of LTE," he said.

WiMAX is deployed in the 2.5 and 2.69 GHz bands in Taiwan. The nation's regulator is planning auctions for later this year of frequencies in the 700MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz bands.

Almost one year ago, the GSMA called on Taiwan's government to abandon its plans to help local vendors become leaders in the WiMAX equipment market and instead lend support to LTE equipment vendors.

Taiwan's regulator is planning auctions for later this year of frequencies in the 700MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz bands.

Lai's comments were in stark contrast to news issued earlier this month by Vee Time, which announced that it is supplying WiMAX service for passengers on Taiwan's High Speed Rail (HSR) via a six-month trial.

Richard Lai, Vee Time chairman, said this is the world's first WiMAX deployment on a high-speed ground transportation system and lessons learned will likely be "exported" next year, according to a Focus Taiwan article.

Vee Time is one of Taiwan's six licensed WiMAX operators, which also include Global Mobile, Vmax Telecom, Far EasTone Telecommunications, International Telecom and Tatung InfoComm. Vee Time now also holds majority stakes in Tatung and Vmax.

Vee Time recently announced it will name a supplier by the end of June for 2,000 base stations it will use to expand its WiMAX network, as well as the networks of Tatung and Vmax. Vee Time also expects to raise additional paid-in capital of $16.7 million to 33.3 million in the second half of 2012, according to an article in Digitimes.

Despite having naysayers, Asia remains a stronghold of support for WiMAX, which has seriously stumbled elsewhere as LTE deployments pick up steam.

At the WiMAX Asia conference in Taiwan on June 6, Ali Tabassi, CTO of Malaysian WiMAX operator YTL Communications said operators who have announced they are defecting from WiMAX to launch TD-LTE "are really just putting lipstick on their pig" in order to raise money from their investors.

"None of the people that have announced for TD-LTE are actually anywhere near launching commercial services of any significant scale, because the ecosystem is not ready yet and won't be for a couple of years at least," said Tabassi, whose remarks were cited in an Informa Telecoms & Media blog post. "As a result, there is still big window of opportunity available for people to get a sizable first-mover advantage in the mobile broadband market by launching with WiMAX."

Tabassi suggested WiMAX operators should define themselves as mobile broadband operators and recognize that customers do not care about a network's underlying access technology. "Whatever happens in the future, you can be sure that, for a good number of years, there will be a coexistence between WiMAX and TD-LTE networks," he said.

Informa's blog also quoted Masanori Arita, executive vice president of Japanese WiMAX operator UQ Communications, which has some 2.6 million subscriptions."There is no point trying to compete with mobile operators in the smartphone market," said Arita, who noted UQ is increasingly interested in M2M opportunities even though its retail WiMAX service for consumers is healthy.

UQ's WiMAX network already provides backhaul capacity for parent company KDDI's growing Wi-Fi network, a strategy Arita recommended to WiMAX operators in other regional markets.

For more:
- see this ZDNet Asia article
- see this cellular-news article
- see this Focus Taiwan article
- see this Digitimes article
- see this Informa Telecoms & Media blog post

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