Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The silence of the beekeepers and more on WiMax

Bite means bee in Latvian and presumably, also, in Lithuanian, where Bite the mobile operator was first established. Now almost all of this blogger's sources are in a total "no comment" mode, even knowing that any information they give will, at worst, appear as totally unsourced, wild and baseless speculation in this collection of rants and fantasies.
What does all this mean? It gives great credibility to speculation that something is going down with Bite, namely, that TDC will soon announce (in January) that it is, indeed, putting this rather excellent Baltic asset up for sale.
Then things get complicated. According to one guesstimate, Bite will be priced at around LVL 170 million, somewhat more than the USD 277 million that Tele2 paid for Baltcom GSM back in 2000 (?). However, there may be several bidders for Bite, at least some (0ne) of whom have been in backroom talks about purchasing the company. Lattelecom's interest in buying Bite to get a mobile business once it is swapped by TeliaSonera for the remaining state share in Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) is kind of an open secret among those privy to open secrets. Now there is talk of Vodafone, TPSA, the Polish telecom (which is closely tied to rival Orange), Hermis, a Lithuanian private equity group. To go even wilder on the guessing, why not throw in Norway's Telenor, which bought out Vodafone in Sweden and is favorably compared to TDC and what the hell, why not Telefonica? TeliaSonera, after all, just bought a 3G operator in Spain and launched it, so why not have a Spanish company buy something in Kenneth Karlberg's back yard?
What that means is that it is not at all clear who will get Bite, and that boils down to that it is not at all clear that Lattelecom will get it. Which, in turn, means Lattelecom has to have a viable plan B, C and so on for any mobile ambitions it may have.
So it should be an exciting early 2007...

WiMax details
The Lattelecom WiMax test platform is two Alvarion base stations, one in Marupe just south of Riga, and another in the suburb of Kengarags, both providing up to 1 Mbps download and up to 256 kbps upload. The test service is being provided to some 45 customers who are, for one technical reason or another, unable to receive DSL broadband. The signal, which carries around 10 km, is in the 3.6 Ghz spectrum.
The service will be able to handle normal browsing, e-mail and VOIP (including Skype calls), but not Lattelecom's IP TV service.
Lattelecom will decide after about two months of testing whether the service is commercially viable (the test customers are getting a discount, the commercial service may cost around LVL 28 per month, slightly more than Triatel's similar EV DO service where available). Presumably, the WiMax will be faster once commercial, because it is outmatched by HSDPA (where speeds will rise and prices may fall) from Bite and LMT. All of which means that 2007 will, in many ways, be the year of high-speed wireless broadband in Latvia.


Bleveland said...

You mentioned Alvarion, so I wish Lattelecom good luck! They will really need it :-) At least the trial will probably be rather successful with as little as 45 users because the real challenge is high network load = many users + high data rates... and 45 users + 1 Mbps is not much at all. But again: all the best!

Anonymous said...

"with as little as 45 users because the real challenge is high network load = many users + high data rates... and 45 users + 1 Mbps is not much at all."

Excellent point. It doesn't sound as if a real test of capacity has been implemented.