Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lattelecom's plan C...DMA?

I've already written that Lattelecom, in order to offer mobile services when it is completely de-coupled from Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) and becomes a state-owned company, will try to buy the Bite Group. TDC, the Danish owner, in turn owned by a private equity group, has long been rumored to want to sell its "peripheral" holdings in the Baltic countries.
With Bite, Lattelecom would get control of a slice of the Lithuanian mobile market as well. It would be a costly acquisition in which Lattelecom would not be the only bidder.
Plan B, for Lattelecom would be to take a big piece of Bite's network capacity and build a powerful virtual operator based on Lattelecom's brand (sorta like Telia Mobil in Sweden).
Now it appears there is a Plan C, or better put, CDMA, or still more clearly-- buy Triatel.
Triatel is a small/midsized alternative operator running a CDMA450 mobile network, some pretty fast and good wireless internet, based on EV DO, plus some fixed network voice services. CDMA, of course, is a non-standard technology for mobile telephony in Europe, but it could have some promise in further evolutions. For instance, instead of running the handsets on the CDMA network, have them operate as IP phones on the wireless broadband network. Then, by signing up folks to a flat rate plan with, say, wireline broadband (10 Mbps +) at home and the handset running on WiFi, then moving to EVDO outdoors (on the next-generation, higher speed deployment), with the handset registered as an IP device, it may be possible to duplicate the current wireline offering of calls within Latvia at no extra charge that Lattelecom now offers to DSL customers.
With hybrid dual mode phones, it is also possible to have a GSM roaming option as well as the possibility to call other GSM phones.
Here is how it could work--say, in late 2007 or 2008, when Triatel is, hypothetically, absorbed by Lattelecom:
New customers to Lattelecom are simply sold "the connection" which is an any device (sold or leased by Lattelecom, plus one's home computers), anyplace high speed, multifunctional broadband connection suitable for voice, internet, "voice on the move" (formerly known as mobile), and internet TV. Voice and voice on the move are seamless, inside Latvia, they are for all intents free (no extra charge on top of the flat rate). Foreign calls are cheap, and calls to other Lattelecom "connection" devices that happen to be on the beach in Sydney, Australia, connected by WiFi, are also free and vice-versa) Once this would have been called quadraplay, but hey, who counts the sleeves and other parts of a well knit sweater. It is, after all, seamless.
By the time Lattelecom and Triatel could get this together, mobile IP telephony will already be nipping at the heels of the GSM charge-per-minute operators anyway (like folks standing near a WiFi phone booth in Riga, making calls on their Nokia N80s when finally, finally, the rocket scientists figure out Skype for Symbian).
So plan C may not be so crazy after all...

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