Unwired to launch PCMCIA cards in June

Sydney-based wireless ISP Unwired will launch its laptop PCMCIA solution for wireless broadband in June of this year, according to Unwired chief executive officer David Spence. The company is also set to launch new plans that include a 'prioritised packet service' for VoIP.

Sydney-based wireless ISP Unwired will launch its laptop PCMCIA solution for wireless broadband in June of this year, according to Unwired chief executive officer David Spence. The company is also set to launch new plans that include a 'prioritised packet service' for VoIP.

The company had initially planned to launch its own PCMCIA card early in 2005. However, the date did not prove feasible and was moved back until later on in the year. Spence said that the service will primarily be targeted at business users, particularly in Sydney's CBD. Unwired customers are currently able to take the provider's external modems on the road with a hefty battery pack, but have not been able to use a lighter PCMCIA solution such as the one offered by competitor iBurst.

Spence made it clear what the company thought about rival technology WiFi which is being marketed by competitors such as Telstra, saying "public hotspots are no longer relevant in Sydney', and joking that he sometimes thinks there are more wireless hotspots than there are users.

Users signing up to use Unwired's PCMCIA cards will fit into the provider's existing plan structure, according to Spence. He said that the company had only recently finished testing of the devices and that due to its initial design, the Unwired network did not require significant modification to accept the cards.

Spence also commented on recent industry speculation surrounding Unwired's announcement that it had cancelled plans to roll out VoIP services over its network. Spence confirmed that the company would soon offer new plan bundles featuring a "prioritised packet service" for VoIP, which would not require any collaboration with VoIP software providers.

According to Spence, providing direct VoIP services "makes no sense with a customer base in the tens of thousands, and might have made sense if the customer base was in the hundreds of thousands:. Also, there are "a lot of VoIP applications coming along," with many of the company's customers already using the free application Skype. Additionally, he commented that the potential for Unwired to offer free customers free VoIP calls to addresses within the Unwired network "is part of what we are looking at".

The comments from Spence came at a press conference this morning in which Unwired said that it had secured 17 per cent of new Sydney residential retail broadband customer for the period 1 August to 31 December 2004, giving the company a total subscriber base of 13,766. Unwired's services were launched commercially on 19 August of last year. Spence said of Unwired's results that they were being driven primarily by the simplicity of the provider's service.

Spence said that revenue would continue to grow this year as it attracted more customers to its network. The company reported total revenue of AU$5.4 million for the first half of the financial year to December 31st, including AU$4.28 million earned since the network was launched on August 19.

The breakeven point for the Sydney network, according to Spence, was 70,000 customers. "The 32.5 million of cash that we have left in the bank will see us, with a bit of a buffer, through to breakeven in Sydney," said Spence. However, the provider would not use any of that cash reserve to roll out its network in other capital cities, with Spence citing the competitive environment as justification for not announcing further infrastructure plans.

"We've got a number of thoughts on [further network infrastructure] and we certainly don't want to dilute our shareholders too much," said Spence. With regard to wireless competitor iBurst, Spence said that Unwired had not been able to gauge the competitor's impact on his company's business - but he didn't appear concerned, targeting his comments more at the traditional broadband providers who have the lion's share of the broadband market. "The market is changing quickly," said Spence, "in just 12 months wireless broadband has gone from a technology of doubt to one of certainty".

AAP contributed to this story

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