Vietnam joins WiMax fray

Motorola inks agreement with a local ISP to start wireless broadband trials in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City this year.

Vietnam joins the growing list of developing countries that are hopping onto the wireless broadband bandwagon.

In a statement Friday, Motorola said it has signed an agreement with Internet service provider (ISP) Vietnam Data Communications (VDC), a company within the state-owned company Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), to start a technical and commercial WiMax trial in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The trial is slated for October 2007, starting with an urban area in Hanoi, followed by Ho Chi Minh City.

Motorola noted that WiMax will help VDC to grow its subscriber base as well as roll out IP services such as Net telephony, without the need for wired infrastructure.

Jay Andersen, vice president for sales with Motorola's home and networks mobility business in South and East Asia, said: "Using WiMax for wireless broadband access is key to a market like Vietnam where wired broadband penetration is low.

"It has the potential to enable the country to leapfrog current wired technologies so that a larger population in Vietnam's rapidly growing market can be connected quickly and affordably," Andersen said.

At the CommunicAsia conference held here this week, Ray Owen, head of technology at Motorola Networks & Enterprise in South and Southeast Asia, said that the market potential of WiMax is greater in developing markets than mature ones.

"What we're seeing in the emerging markets is some very rapid economic growth, and a lot of it is being tied to information [access and] connectivity," Owen said, adding that WiMax is a cost-efficient way to boost broadband adoption in developing countries.

"The cost of providing a wired copper-based infrastructure has gone up four-fold in the last five years, while the cost of wireless infrastructure has come down," Owen noted. "We're seeing a perfect storm in terms of wireless broadband."

According to a recent Motorola study, the bulk of respondents in Southeast Asia are acquainted with WiMax and want the technology for personal Internet access connectivity.

A handful of operators have started wireless broadband deployments in the Asia-Pacific region. These include Wateen in Pakistan, Jaring and Maxis in Malaysia, Agni Systems in Bangladesh and Bharti in India.