Industry observers remain unconvinced by a suggestion by Kerry Stokes’s Seven Network that Seven subsidiary Unwired is close to announcing the start to a rollout its long-awaited WiMax rollout in capital cities.
A note in Seven’s presentation on its full-year financial results, published this week, said simply: “Unwired rollout announcement due soon.” This was backed up in the preliminary final report, which says in reference to
Unwired: ” The technical assessment of the 4G network has been completed and Seven Network Limited is currently investigating funding arrangements for the deployment of this network with an announcement on the rollout of the network expected soon”.
And unnamed sources reportedly told Communications Day that Unwired might announce its long-awaited WiMax rollout, using its the 2.3 and 3.5GHz spectrum bands, as early as next week.
However, independent telecoms analyst Paul Budde says he will believe it when he has seen it and that Seven is possibly barking up the wrong technology tree.
“We have been talking about WiMax for 10 years and so far it hasn’t been very successful,” Budde told CDN. “It is unclear from Seven results how deeply the company is involved in [other subsidiaries] Engin and TiVo and the whole Unwired thing, with the impending NBN future built by structurally separated developers.
“Just as it is not seen as appropriate for Telstra to run network and services, Seven faces similar hurdles.”
Stokes paid $135 million to acquire Unwired in 2007. The subsidiary made a loss of $62 million in the year to June 30; the Engin VoIP operation lost $6.7 million, about half the previous year’s loss.
Budde told CDN it doesn’t make sense for Seven to be heavily involved in broadband. He believes it should stick to operating as a content provider in the market rather than becoming an infrastructure provider as well.
He says speculation on an announcement soon lacks hard evidence and, while WiMax may be good for campuses and schools, it does not make sense for a company like Seven to be involved in rural infrastructure.
“Even in regional areas, WiMax is problematic and costly in rolling out the network and fine-tuning antennae,” says Budde.
“In regional areas to have a viable rollout would require support by Government. For instance, Internode is now operating successfully on the York Peninsular and does a good job, but it remains to be seen if such offerings are economically viable, depending on where you put it.”
Kate Castellari is a writer for Computer Daily News