Unwired CEO David Spence today side-stepped a query on whether the company's vaunted WiMax network build would begin before the end of the year.
David Spence (Credit: Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet.com.au)
Asked at the Commsday Summit today in Sydney whether Unwired would begin rolling out its planned WiMax network by the end of 2009, David Spence refused to comment.
Unwired has been planning to roll out a nationwide WiMax network (extending its existing pre-WiMax infrastructure in several cities) since 2005, when the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) ratified the 802.16e standard for the technology.
Yet nothing has eventuated so far, with the planned network, which would reach 13 million people in the regions for which Unwired has spectrum coverage, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Geelong, Newcastle and the central coast remaining unbuilt.
When Seven took control of the company in November 2007, it conducted a review of WiMax's technical capability which was completed after the year's results, but said that funding options were still to be addressed.
When ZDNet.com.au went to the company to see a demonstration of the technology in September last year, the company was in the process of choosing a vendor from Motorola, Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent.
Yet half a year on, no announcement has been made as to when a roll-out might begin, leaving observers to wonder if in the midst of the financial crisis whether Seven has the money for the roll-out, estimated to cost at least $200 million.
"Certainly I've waited long enough for some of these standards to emerge to get going in the space of 4G," Spence said today at the conference. "We think that from the point of view of the device end of the market that has been the hold-up."
Unwired's 15-year spectrum licence expires in 2015. The longer it takes to implement a network, the less time it has to achieve a return on its investment.
The possibility remains that the wireless telco might be able to wangle an extension on its licence, but it would not be certain — especially with mobile network operators frantically looking around for compatible spectrum for their next-generation networks.
Unwired contributed a $15.6 million loss to Seven's consolidated result for the period of 15 November 2007 to 28 June 2008, and a further $15 million earnings before interest and taxation loss for the half year to 27 December 2008.