Liberty may soon launch WiMAX

After a 2-month free trial, Liberty Telecom Holdings Inc. is set to commercially launch its WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) service in the Philippines.
Liberty is expecting its WiMAX and Internet broadband services to bring the company back to profitability, as these are seen to account for more than 90% of its sales and subscriber base.
Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc. was the first to deploy WiMAX as a cost-efficient alternative to cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) in bringing wireless broadband access to the public.
WiMAX can provide speeds of up to 1 Mbps, which is 33% faster than commercially available Wi-Fi services.
LIBERTY Telecom Holdings Inc. may soon slug it out with the major rivals as it is expected to commercially launch its WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) service. This as the company will soon ends its two-month free trial service offer to select clients..
Liberty currently offers WiMAX in selected areas in Metro Manila. Those from Mandaluyong, San Juan, Makati and Quezon City and those availed of the trial service reportedly enjoys faster wireless transmission of data and mobile communications compared to fixed DSL (digital subscriber line)or  3G (third generation) connectivity.
Liberty, which once offered traditional telecom services, will now focus on Internet broadband and WiMAX to bring the company back to profitability. It expects the two services would account for more than 90 percent of its projected sales and subscriber base.
WiMAX is a telecommunications technology that provides wireless transmission of data using a variety of transmission modes, from point-to-multipoint links to portable and fully mobile internet access. The technology is said to provide the last mile connectivity. The resulting competition may bring lower pricing for both home and business customers or bring broadband access to places where it has been economically unavailable.
Liberty wants to be a major player in the wireless broadband sector and may likely succeed in its objective despite stiff competition. Anastacio Martirez, former chief mobile head and head of consumer business at Smart Communications Inc. and former chief executive officer for the Jakarta-based PT Smart Telecom, joined Liberty on February 4, 2009.
“Looking at the enormous potential and the opportunities that the wireless broadband sector in the Philippines has to offer, I am extremely excited and hope to play an instrumental role in establishing Liberty Telecoms as a strong player in the Philippine telecom industry,” Martirez said last year.
When sought for comment, Martirez did not want to provide details on Liberty’s ongoing WiMAX trial service and impending commercial launch. But the National Telecommunications Commission already approved Liberty’s request to test WiMAX.
Sources said Liberty will be offering cheap subscription rates for WiMAX service to entice the public to shift to the company. The rates may be offered for as low as P250 a month.
Carriers are unfazed by the entry of Liberty, saying it has no network to speak of amid the financial backing of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Qatar Telecom (QTel), Qatar ’s dominant telephone service provider.
SMC has formalized its entry in the telecommunications industry by acquiring 32.7 percent of Liberty for P1.88 billion. Its wholly owned unit Vega Telecom Inc. has acquired 597.111 million shares of Liberty for P3.25 each. The purchase was done via a series of block sales at the bourse.
Liberty claims that its capability to take advantage of the promising WiMAX technology will put the company to at least at par with the other phone firms in the country.
Among the carriers, Globe Telecom was the first to deploy WiMAX as a cost efficient alternative to cable and digital subscriber line in bringing wireless broadband access to the public.
“Yes, Liberty has the frequencies but it is just starting to build its network. Whereas existing carriers already have the network, the frequencies, and subscribers,” said a telco official.
Another source said carriers offering WiMAX or those planning to now scramble for wireless broadband frequencies to offer WiMAX service. Since no new frequencies have been recently allocated by the National Telecommunications Commission some carriers resort to buying other small phone firms which had been awarded precious frequencies even before demand for the service surge.
Liberty has 40 megahertz (Mhz) in the 2.5 gigahertz (Ghz) to 2.7 GHz spectrum and nearly 100Mhz situated in the 700MHz frequency bandwidth. It informed the stock exchange last year that capital spending budget for the next 10 years is estimated to reach P7.15 billion. Of which, P5.11 billion will sourced internally and the remaining from new investors.
Rival Smart Communications Inc. also obtained a 20Mhz in the 2.5GHz to 2.7GHz spectrum to rollout WiMAX services.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. president Napoleon Nazareno has said the dominant carrier welcomes competition.
Nazareno said the more players there are in the market, the more choices there would be for consumers. “We welcome competition. We are focus on what we are doing given the innovations we have put in place and those that will be put in place.”
For listed firm Digital Telecommunications president James Go said last year that nothing beats the original. “Remember, we started it all. Others just followed. We still have an edge and we will make sure that we will be ahead of the others.”

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