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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

WiMax issue

MCMC explains WiMax issue


PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission (MCMC) received 17 submissions for the controversial 2.3GHz broadband wireless access spectrum – commonly known as WiMax – tender exercise but will only evaluate the applications after addressing the concerns of the government.

The MCMC said this in a statement after Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik called for a tender recall, alleging that the commission did not follow the ministry’s specifications for the tender bid.

This is surprising given that the 2.3GHz tender exercise was not the first by the MCMC. In fact, it had called several, including twice for 3G. spectrums. The MCMC had also worked on the 2.3GHz bid for several months. Experts said that MCMC had even conducted public consultations on the 2.3GHz spectrum before opening the bid.

An expert wondered why there was a “change in heart at the 11th hour when the ministry had two months to act if there was a discrepancy.” The tenders were called by the MCMC on May 16, closed on Tuesday, and the results were supposed to be announced on Oct 31. Only three spectrum blocks were up for grabs.

Now everything is on hold. MCMC, in the statement, said it “would defer the evaluation of the submissions made by the applicants. Once the concerns are addressed, MCMC will proceed with the evaluation, in which clarifications from the applicants may be sought, if necessary. Further announcements on this matter will be advised to the applicants in due course.”

Among the 17 applicants was DiGi.Com Bhd, whose spokesperson confirmed yesterday that “we did submit our bid.” Jaring head of communications Ameernudin Zulkifli said: “We submitted a bid and it remains in our plans to bid again when the tender re-opens.” Both VoIP players – REDtone International Bhd and NasionCom Holdings Bhd – also confirmed making bids.

Sources said the other companies that had made bids included Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Maxis Communications Bhd, Celcom Timur, MiTV Corp Bhd, Asia Space and even BizSerf. But a TimedotCom spokesperson said “the company did not submit a bid.”

WiMax can help the nation expand its broadband penetration rate.
The ministry’s concern, according to the MCMC statement, was “in view of the current requirement to align the rollout of wireless broadband services in Malaysia to support the national MyICMS886 strategy at achieving set targets for broadband rollout over the next five years and beyond.”

Interestingly, the tender document, under Part One – Strategy, point 7.1 (a) says: “The applicant shall demonstrate its strategy on effectively and efficiently utilising the spectrum blocks to contribute towards achievement of the MyICMS886 strategy.” The tender document has also defined 13 geographical areas where 2.3GHz needed be provided. The areas include 13 states in the country, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur.

The MyICMS886 is essentially a five-year ICT blueprint outlining an industry-driven initiative that will leverage on existing policies and programmes to increase the usage of broadband Internet, cellular telephone service and 3G services. Under the plan, the government envisages broadband penetration to grow to at least 15% of the population in 2010 compared with 5% now.

That aside, an expert said: “It is sad that such a plan to widen broadband connectivity is being shot done so early in its infancy stage. One wonders how the country is going to achieve its ambitious high penetration rates.”

The minister may have his reasons for the recall, but there is much talk on the possibile reasons. Some say it has to do with a protectionist policy. Another version questions why some players continue to collect spectrums and not deliver? Yet another version is that the “whole delay is part of an agenda to allow easy passage for certain players to get the spectrum,” while others said that “it is time to allow smaller players to prove their worth.”

Whatever the reasons, WiMax, which is a good enabling technology, can help the nation expand its broadband penetration rate. However, it “will take time as WiMax notebooks and tablets will not arrive in volumes until 2008-2009, while compatible mobile WiMax handsets will not arrive until 2010.”

Intel envisions WiMax to be the third high-speed Internet access alternative.


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