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VON Magazine :: Web Exclusives :: PCCW's UK wireless VoIP play: "Web Exclusives
PCCW's UK wireless VoIP play

6.2.04 | Doug Mohney

PCCW, a telephone company out of Hong Kong, took its first steps earlier this month to conquer Great Britain's phone and broadband markets with the launch of its NETVIGATOR ( wireless broadband service in six areas in the Thames Valley. Initial speeds to home and office are available at 512Kbps and 1 Mbps at Pound 18 for 512kbits/s and Pound 28 for 1Megabit/s on the basis of a 12-month contract AFTER a month's free trial. Such aggressive pricing is likely to cause BT and UK cable companies more than a few squeamish moments once the service starts rolling out across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Senior VP of Strategy and Marketing Paul Berriman sounded confident about the prospects for the NETVIGATOR service as he presented PCCW's plans at a wireless forum in Washington DC sponsored by the Federal Communications Commission two weeks ago. In a strategic move, PCCW has acquired all 13 licenses in the 3.4 GHz band across the UK and Northern Ireland, allowing them national coverage of Great Britain without having to run wires to millions of households. Back-end support is based back in the home offices of Hong Kong on systems already handling the accounts of 700,000 Hong Kong broadband users. Since the UK is expected to add 2.1 million new broadband subscribers in 2004 (double the total HK market), Britain is a great place for PCCW to make some bucks.

Initial wireless coverage for the "soft launch" is around 280,000 households. The wireless modem comes packaged as either an external box or PC-Card that doesn't require line-of-site or external antennas "in most cases" according to their website and has an install time under 3 minutes. If you don't pick up a box at the local outlet, they claim they will ship one to your doorstep within 24 hours of ordering from the web site.

Once established, the VoIP fun begins. PCCW plans to drop in a Voice over IP offering as a phase two offering, so they will likely end up stealing phone call service dollars from BT in short order. Initial targets are home power-users and small businesses that only have narrowband access today.

Within two years, PCCW plans to offer service for up to 75% of the UK population, with coverage extending to major urban areas and almost-major urban areas. The plan would put over 2,200 sites across the UK (3 base stations per site to cover 360 degrees) and anywhere between 7,000 to 9,000 households per site. One of the few obstacles encountered in the initial rollout is the headaches involved dealing with BT to provision high-speed backhaul circuits in a timely fashion to base stations.

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