Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Commentary: Where is the transparency in Wimax rollout?

MALAYSIA has become Southeast Asia's first country to commercially launch wireless high speed Internet services using WiMAX technology. WiMAX is the bigger brother to the WiFi technology, said to be able to cover bigger areas and provide faster speeds.

Being early with WiMAX is a good advantage for Malaysia as it's an added attraction to foreign investors and business travellers. But it also makes Malaysia a case study for others. In this regard, the example we're setting in implementing wireless Internet access leaves much to be desired.

Since WiMAX licences were awarded in March 2008, the government has been pressing for a fast roll-out. There were repeated warnings from former Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Mansor.

"Frankly speaking, I am just waiting for whoever that can't deliver. I want to take the licence and give it to someone who is serious to roll out," Shaziman was quoted in news reports in August last year.

Under the rules, players must commercially launch their service by the end of August 2008 and must cover 25 per cent of the population by the end of March 2009.

No doubt, the final destination - to have a nationwide coverage of the wireless services - is the most important. But the short-term target has its purpose too. It allows the regulators to monitor the progress, making sure that the players are actually doing what they are supposed to do and not just hogging the spectrum.

When the government opened bids for the WiMAX spectrum, it expected detailed business plans from players. They must have plans on how they would use the spectrum, how to cover a quarter of the population in 2009, at least 40 per cent of the country by March 2011, and so forth. On top of that, regulator Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has the right to take action against those who do not meet the targets. This includes imposing fines, taking back the performance bond of up to RM7.7 million, as well as revoking licences.

While it is understood that all four players met the August 2008 deadline, not all met the March 2009 deadline.So far, Packet One Networks (M) Sdn Bhd, Asiaspace Sdn Bhd and REDtone International Bhd said they have either achieved or are very close to achieving the March target.

YTL e-Solutions Bhd on August 28 said it had launched services to selected businesses in the Bukit Bintang area. But it was only last Thursday that YTLE signed a deal with Samsung to start building its network.It has been more than three weeks since the March deadline expired. So far, the government or the regulator has yet to announce who have met the target. More importantly, what kind of action it plans to take against those who do not meet the requirement?

It can be a simple one like a warning letter, or a fine. Authorities can also decide not to take any action against them. The bottom line is a decision must be made, and the decision, plus the reason for it, should be communicated clearly.

Based on what has happened so far, one could fairly assume that the authorities are being lenient. This is understandable. After all, WiMAX is a fairly new technology and industry players need time to understand its true capabilities. There is also the economic slowdown factor to consider.

But this is just a guess. Maybe warning letters have been sent, fines have been slapped, exemptions have been given. The truth is the public doesn't know and they will just have to assume and speculate what is going on behind the scenes. If this is left unchecked, it could build a negative perception against the authorities.

Malaysia's effort to take the lead in technology will be a case study for many countries keen to have WiMAX. Let's hope it turns out to be a study of success.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

YTL e-Solutions Bhd to launch nationwide WiMAX in 14 months

YTL e-Solutions Bhd, the wireless broadband provider controlled by YTL Corp Bhd, will launch its wireless services in 14 months, using the WiMAX technology.

Although the company admits that it is behind the initial target set by government "25 per cent population coverage by Q1 2009", it confidently said that it will be ahead of the government's target to achieve nationwide coverage.

It said that it will only commercially launch the service when it has nationwide coverage, as doing it stages by stages will not offer the true "customer experience".

While the idea sounds great, it does has some risks.

In 14 months time, its rivals would probably have a huge headstart in the WiMAX race. P1, which has more than 20,000 customers so far, aims to hit 100,000 by year end (need to re-clarify). By then, these players would also have already established their brand and position themselves in the market they want to be in.

These of course, are not huge obstacles for YTL e-Solutions, which has deeper pockets than the other three players (P1, Asiaspace and Redtone). Moreover, it has tied up with giants like Cisco, Sprint, and Samsung, which would definitely help the company to gain lost ground in terms of branding milleage.

Monday, April 20, 2009

KT Freetel to exit U-Mobile (part 2)

Received an interesting comment from <-DT-&gt, who shared his/ her views on other motives behind KT Freetel's sale of U Mobile stakes.


In a nutshell, other motives for the sale could be due to the merger of KT Freetel and KT Corp. Selling stakes in U Mobile and/ or other "non-essential assets/ investments" will help lessen the group's burden in financing cost.

Good point!

I guess at the end of the day, if U Mobile is such a cash-cow, and brings in loads of profits, I believe the it will be more "cost efficient" for the group to get the necessary financing from banks.

I do not have the KT Freetel's regulatory filing with me. But according to the Bloomberg article:

"KT FREETEL Co, the second-largest South Korean wireless service provider, will sell a 16.5 per cent stake in U Mobile Sdn for at least US$100 million (RM360 million) to avoid losses on its investment. KT Freetel will sell the 62.6 million shares to U Mobile’s major shareholder, it said yesterday in a regulatory filing. — Bloomberg"

Thanks for the comments and emails, pls keep them coming.

Below are some updates on KT Corp and KT Freetel merger.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hotlink's Sabah + Sarawak Plan

Hotlink has launched another prepaid plan, this time, is specially catered to the Sabahans and Sarawakians.

The new plan came after it introduced the new prepaid plan, dubbed EXtra plan, about a week ago.
The move could be an attempt to win more market share in East Malaysia, a market which is believed to be Celcom's stronghold. (Celcom's CEO Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly once said, it is number 1 in most parts of Malaysia, except for the Klang Valley)
The "value" they offer to the East Malaysian is obvious, 33 sen to any networks, anytime. They wont be charged 39 sen a minute if they call a non-Maxis number.
I would like to thank one of the follower Xeon for taking notice of this new plan.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What's happening to U Mobile?

KT Freetel's intention to exit U Mobile made me wonder if U Mobile facing any "problems" or "complications"...?

Come to think of it... It has been a while since i came across a U Mobile TV commercial...

I wonder if all of U Mobile's plans are still on track, especially its network expansion plans. To recap: The firm, controlled by tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun, plans to invest "several hundred million US dollars" over the next few years to expand its network.

Really hope U Mobile is able to brave through all difficulties, if any. Afterall, they are the only player that offers per second billing for both postpaid and prepaid lines. All the best!!

KT Freetel to exit U-Mobile

KT Freetel Co, the second-largest South Korean wireless service provider, plans to exit its investments in U-Mobile Sdn Bhd.

In its filing to regulator, KT Freetel said it will sell its entire 62.6 million shares to U-Mobile's major shareholder.

Bloomberg reports that KT Freetel plans to sell the 16.5 per cent stake for at least US$100 million to "avoid losses on its investments".


In December 2007, KT Freetel and Japan's NTT DoCoMo each agreed to invest US$100 million into the mobile operator, and each will take a 16.5 per cent stake.

Both "will jointly participate in U Mobile's management and draw on their 3G expertise to enhance U Mobile'scompetitiveness," a joint statement said.


It is never easy for a new mobile player to compete in the highly saturated market, especially when the big three players are defending their market share aggressively.

I remembered asking DiGi.Com Bhd CEO Johan Dennelind on his view on new entrants such as the MVNOs, U-Mobile etc. His reply: "I have seen a lot of adex (advertising expenditure) and share of voice, but I have seen very little impact on the revenue market share, none basically. If you count SIM cards, yeah, maybe it's noticeable. But, so far very much according to what I expected. It is very hard (for the new entrants) to come into the market, which currently has three very strong players, and many positions have been taken."


Will NTT DoCoMo be next to exit?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What DiGi and Celcom are doing on their prepaid front...?

Since Maxis' Hotlink came up with a new price plans. No harm relooking at DiGi and Celcom's plan. So far, DiGi is still sticking to its 36 sen a minute (to anyone, anywhere in Malaysia, at 30 second block) and 10 sen a sms.

Meanwhile, Celcom's Xpax still charges 35 sen a minute, depending where in Malaysia you are calling to. Its Celcom Prabayar Blue's rates stand at 45 sen a minute (to anyone, anywhere), each sms costs 15 sen.

Certainly, Hotlink's plan stood out, and is more attractive than its rivals. Will Celcom react? Was told that they will be announcing something over the next few weeks ...

As for DiGi, they may have pre-emp it by offering RM30 worth of credit for RM10 of reloads, a move that could tie-up users for three months.

New pricing plans from Hotlink

Maxis Communications Bhd's prepaid unit Hotlink has came up with new pricing structure.

Basically the deal is:
1. IF you want normal Basic Plan, you will have to pay 33/39 sen a minute, at 30 second block. Quite competitive with what others are offering.
2. IF you want 33/35 sen for the first minute, and 25/28 sen for the second minute. You will need to sign up to the EXtra plan. HOWEVER, it will be charged per 60-second block. (drop me a line at theaneu@gmail.com if you need more explanation on how these block charges can affect you)
3. IF you are a student, with a valid student ID of course, then you will be eligible for the Youth Club plan. 12/15 sen a minute, 1/5 sen an SMS.
I guess, there were people who were not happy with Hotlink's previous price plans. Before this new plan, they were offering 33 sen a minute (lowest in the industry), however, they charged it at per-60-second blocks.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

New promotions by Malaysian telcos

Over the past one week plus, telcos have been busy launching new products and campaigns.

Let's start with products offering:

Last Sunday, Maxis and Celcom both announced that it will be launching the new BlackBerry Storm --- the touchscreen smartphone which is expected to give Apple Inc's iPhone a run for its money.

For non-mobile operators, Packet One for example, has announced plans to launch its 10Mbps USB WiMAX dongle.

Here's the interesting part, promotional campaigns:

Early this month, DiGi is offering new campaigns to tie-up prepaid customers longer. By reloading RM10, DiGi prepaid user is entitled to RM30 worth of credit airtime. The money will be disburse to the customers in three tranches, i.e. RM10 x 3 months. So, in order to enjoy the free airtime, you got to hang on to the line.

Today, Celcom announced that it will give away one luxury handbag a day over the next 100 days.

Unlike the previous 100days 100cars campaign (launched June 2008), Celcom's CEO Datuk Seri Shazalli Ramly is confident that the campaign is "halal" and complies to regulations.

To take part in the "lucky draw", postpaid customers need to make calls between 12 noon and 7.59 pm. Each call which lasted at least three minutes will be entitled for one entry. So, if you make 10 calls, each call 3 minutes long, you will have 10 entries. However, if you made 1 call which lasted 50 minutes, it is also considered as one entry. :) So peeps, if you really want the bags really badly, hang up every 3 minutes or so.


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