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Unwired hits a nerve with Melbourne launch

Are Unwired's competitors worried about the wireless carrier's entrance into the Melbourne market?
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor
commentary One could get the impression that Unwired's competitors are a little worried about the wireless carrier's entrance into the Melbourne market yesterday.
Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia
Telstra certainly wasted no time in reacting to Unwired's plans, which were announced over the weekend.

The incumbent slashed the prices of its own wireless broadband plans by up to 30 percent ... with the new packages due to take effect from Wednesday.

While Telstra said the move was unrelated to Unwired's launch, the timing was certainly suspicious.

Personal Broadband Australia (PBA), which operates the iBurst wireless broadband network, also had a knee-jerk reaction to Unwired's Melbourne launch.

"Please see below most updated boilerplate on PBA and iBurst for your reference," said a statement from the company which landed in your writer's inbox Monday morning.

"As you can see, iBurst is currently in Sydney, Melbourne etc," the e-mail continued.

But if PBA is so confident of its market position and mindshare ... why does it feel the need to distribute maps of its coverage area on the eve of a competitor's expansion?

Such a tactic is an obvious ploy to get mindshare with writers covering the Unwired launch.

Despite the bluster of its competitors, however, Unwired is likely to make in-roads into the Melbourne market just as it has in Sydney.

The nature of Unwired's service is qualitatively different from that of either PBA or mobile phone operators like Telstra.

Unwired's solution is primarily geared towards being a fixed-line ADSL/cable replacement for consumers, while PBA and and the mobile operators are primarily providing solutions geared towards daily mobility, typically for business users.

While there is some overlap between the two types of service, Australia clearly needs both in varying quantities.

Friendly competitors
Also, despite the impression of hostility this week's events might have left, relations between Unwired and its competitors are not as strained as you might believe.

PBA chief executive Jonathan Withers told your writer this morning that he has lunch with David Spence (his counterpart at Unwired) "from time to time", and also used to work for mobile phone carrier Vodafone.

Most of Unwired's own executive management team have worked for Telstra at some point in their careers, with positions at Optus and other carriers also common.

It'd be hard to believe links forged during those years have totally died out.

What do you think about Unwired's entrance into Melbourne? Will established competitors hamstring the wireless upstart or will Melbourne become Unwired's second stronghold? Send your thoughts through to renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au.

For more views from the trenches of Australian telecommunications, visit my blog:
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