WiMAX should develop toward dual-mode single frequency band, says Global Mobile chairwoman
Chloe Yu, Taipei; Adam Hwang, DIGITIMES [Monday 1 August 2011]
Chairwoman Rosemary Ho for Global Mobile, one of the six WiMAX operators in Taiwan, has expressed her opinions about how WiMAX will develop under competition from LTE and the company's WiMAX operations in an interview with Digitimes.
Q: Several mobile telecom carriers have decided to shift from WiMAX to LTE around the world, what are Global Mobile's opinions?
A: WiMAX is a mature technology available ready to be rolled out, why should Global Mobile waste time waiting for other 4G standards, namely FDD-LTE or TD-LTE?
Q: How is the interaction between China's telecom industry and Taiwan's WiMAX operators?
A: Because WiMAX and TD-LTE share the same origins with an 80% overlap in terms of technology, China-based telecom carriers are interested in services offered by Global Mobile. Global Mobile's WiMAX services can be operated based on TD-LTE simply through modifying a chip. Global Mobile exhibited seamless connection between WiMAX and LTE at Computex 2011 in June and signed with China-based telecom carriers in an attempt to export WiMAX technology. It is quite difficult for China Mobile to promote TD-LTE in the global market because US- and Europe-based mobile telecom carriers are expected not to give up FDD-LTE. Thus, adoption of dual-mode (standards) using a single frequency band is expected to be the trend of 4G technological development.
Q: How will growing use of hand-held devices influence WiMAX operators in 2011?
A: HTC will ship about two million WiMAX-enabled smartphones in 2011, according to HTC's supply chain. Global Mobile hopes customized dual-mode handsets, such as 3G+4G, 2G+4G or 4G+ another 4G become available. For business operations, we are ready technologically but need dual-mode handsets and service support. Our long long-term goal is for 1.3 million subscribers.
Q: Will Global Mobile procure smartphones?
A: We are is negotiating procurement of customized dual-mode, WiMAX + GSM or CDMA2000, smartphones with two Taiwan-based vendors/ODMs and hope to offer own-brand models eventually. In addition, the Consortium of Mobile Broadband, a WiMAX-promoting organization, plans to boost joint procurement of smartphones by WiMAX operators, but there is a problem for the time being that other WiMAX operators have not yet obtained phone numbers to provide voice communication services.
Q: There has been suggestions that WiMAX operators should merge to reach an economy of scale, what are your thoughts?
A: It is necessary to see the reasons and conditions for merger. For example, is merger motivated by turning around or relieving already bad operations or expanding already good operations?
Q: How many subscribers are needed to reach profitable WiMAX operations? How long will it take to reach such a user base?
A: For Global Mobile, 1.3 subscribers is the minimum level to sustain profitable operations and therefore that is a long-term goal of the company. To attain the critical user base, two things are needed. First is sufficient availability of WiMAX-enabled handsets; Global Mobile has sold many 0900- phone numbers, which enables voice calls to local telephone numbers, to individual and business subscribers. Second is remote monitoring services, such as for security, and Global Mobile has offered such services under trial has seen quite good market response. With the two supporting things available, it is not difficult to attain 1.3 million subscribers. We expect to reach more than 250,000 subscribers at the end of 2012 and 1.3 million in less than 10 years. In April 2011, we won a project from the Taipei City Government to set up a free mobile Internet-access environment based on our WiMAX networks in public space or facilities owned and/or operated by the city government, and this is a good opportunity to allow the public to experience WiMAX.
Q: What is Global Mobile's strategic cooperation with Next TV?
A: The strategic cooperation is for home users to use Next TV's IPTV services via our WiMAX broadband and, at the same time, use WiMAX services at monthly fixed rates without limits. The cooperation covers joint marketing as well. Global Mobile has received many inquiries about WiMAX since Next TV began delivery of IPTV services at the end of 2010.
Q: What are Global Mobile's 2011 operational goals and how will you strengthen sales promotions in retail outlets?
A: Operations will focus on expanding our subscriber base, aiming to attain 160,000 subscribers by the end of 2011, and 250,000 in 2012 as well as monthly revenues of NT$100 million (US$3.46 million) in the second half of 2011. Currently, almost all applicants for WiMAX data communication services apply for 0900- phone numbers for WiMAX voice communications as well. For sales promotions in retail stores, it has been found that sales persons' ability to promote 4G is significantly related to WiMAX sales performance, and many sales persons need in-depth training in this respect. Professional training to enable sales persons in retail stores to answer customers' questions about WiMAX and help customers takes two months, approximately double the training time for 2G and 3G. Global Mobile has a retail network of over 100 stores around Taiwan currently and aims to add at least 100 by the end of 2011.
Q: How are Global Mobile' international roaming services?
A: We face a problem with revenue sharing because WiMAX charges in Taiwan are relatively much lower the those of oversea's operators. For example, Sprint Nextel charges a subscriber US$50 a month, while WiMAX operators in Taiwan charge about NT$400-500 (US$13.9-17.3). As a result, our roaming pricing allows partners' subscribers use WiMAX services in Taiwan at local rates while Global Mobile subscribers' using WiMAX services in the US, for example, are subject to US partners' rates. Global Mobile has cooperated with Sprint on roaming services and has settled on Wi-Fi roaming services with South Korea-based telecom carrier KT.
Q: How does Global Mobile evaluate itself as compared with the other five WiMAX operators in Taiwan?
A: Global Mobile is currently the only one to offer value-added services in addition to mobile Internet. Services are the key to driving consumer demand.
Q: What is the next service Global Mobile will launch?
A: Based on the use of WiMAX in Japan following the large earthquake on March 11, we plan to launch LBS (location-based services). But this is subject to approval from the National Communications Commission.
Global Mobile chairwoman Rosemary Ho
Photo: Chloe Yu, Digitimes, August 2011