update Local internet service provider Exetel today said it might stop reselling Unwired's pre-WiMax wireless broadband service as it inked a deal to provide 3G mobile broadband services through Optus.
Until now, Exetel, which broadly focuses on ADSL broadband, has presented its users with a mobile experience via reselling Unwired services. However, this is unlikely to continue when a five-year contract with the wireless operator runs out. Exetel inked the Optus deal in June.
"As far as we are aware (we have had very little contact with Unwired for the past two plus years) Unwired aren't interested in a reseller/wholesale 'channel' and we would not expect to renew the contract," Exetel CEO John Linton told ZDNet.com.au today.
"Apart from that — Unwired hasn't moved forward on making the service more affordable or in more areas and our current view is that 3G will outperform WiMax in Australia by a considerable margin by mid 2009."
Exetel will continue offering the Unwired plans until the contract runs out; however, an Exetel spokesperson said they couldn't see any reason why users wouldn't go for the 3G HSPA offering instead, which they said was cheaper and faster, as well as having a much smaller, more mobile modem.
Unwired was bought by Seven last year, with Seven's CEO expressing positive thoughts for the company. However, Unwired only contributed a loss in the last financial year, according to the company's last results, where it also announced it was nearing the end of a review of Unwired's WiMax technical capabilities.
Unwired CTO Eric Hamilton said the company was "certainly not" moving away from providing wholesale services and pointed out the firm would advance its technology when it moved to adopt the formal 802.16e WiMAX standard.
He said the current speed ceiling for Unwired's broadband was 1Mbps, but that would change when the WiMAX adoption went ahead, and WiMAX fared well in real-world throughput tests compared to 3G.
Whether WiMax has been dying a long death has been on analysts' minds for some time, with major local carriers such as Telstra and Optus behind 3G and its faster brethren LTE. Frost and Sullivan predicted WiMax would only take two per cent of the Australian market, while telecommunications analyst Paul Budde has said that aside from emerging markets, WiMax would only find use in niche areas, such as regional or enterprise use.
Exetel's move to HSPA would see thousands of customers sign up for mobile broadband, Linton said, with an optimistic forecast seeing 10,000 users on the service by the end of the first quarter next year, and double that midway through the year. Sluggish growth would see around 500 sign-ups a month over the next nine months.
In order to be able to take advantage of the HSPA services, users have to sign up to a 24-month, $10 per month Optus/Exetel mobile plan. However, Exetel will also continue to offer mobile services through its former mobile partner Vodafone.
The company had planned to offer a mobile package using a SIM and USB package for laptops, but because of an order mix up, only the SIMs were available at the launch today.
The announced plans were pay for what you use, involving a $5 per month access charge, on top of which users are charged 1.5 cents per MB up to 1GB of downloads, and 2.5 cents per MB after that.