CC Puan, the CEO of Green Packet Berhad, which is the parent company of Malaysian WiMAX operator Packet One (P1), anticipates strong WiMAX subscriber growth through 2009.
“We [P1] had 10,000 subscribers at the end of last year, and at the end of 1Q 2009 the net subscriber additions were more than double that compared with the last four months of 2008,” he says. “We see that growth trend continuing and we expect to have 250,000 subscribers by the end of this year.”
P1 launched commercial service in August 2008, using 30MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency band. It has more than 25 percent population coverage of West Malaysia using equipment from Alcatel-Lucent. “We are starting on the second phase, with equipment from ZTE, to cover 40 percent of the population, which requires 3,000 base stations and 1,000 sites,” says Puan. “We anticipate finishing that by the end of H1 2010. By the end of this year, we are confident we will have 2,100 base stations as compared with about 1,000 base stations now. If you look at the network and subscriber growth for P1, we are moving at a fairly remarkable rate.”
Green Packet is also a supplier of mobile broadband software and VAS solutions, including the Intouch Connection Manager, which allows seamless connectivity between 3G, WiMAX and wifi networks. The Intouch Connection Manager is available with P1’s USB dongle (also supplied by Green Packet), which is capable of 10Mbps download speeds. Dubbed ‘Wiggy’, P1 launched the USB WiMAX dongle into the Malaysian market in mid-April 2009.
Michael Lai, P1 CEO, says he is not overly concerned that 2.3GHz operators might miss out on the greater CPE economies of scale generated in the 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz frequency bands where volumes look likely to be higher. “We are concerned but we are also fortunate in that we are part of the Packet Group, which have done the R&D and design for our devices,” he says. “The price points for [2.3GHz] CPE are now below $100, but we believe that can go down to between $60 and $70 by the end of this year.”
Lai says he expects P1 to turn EBITDA positive by the end of 2009.
Of P1’s decision to choose ZTE, Lai says that a multi-vendor approach was always part of the strategy. “When we awarded the contract to Alcatel-Lucent [January 2008], it was definitely ahead from a technology perspective,” he says. “But in the last nine to 12 months, other vendors, particularly the Chinese vendors, have come up very strong.”
Lai says P1 is also looking at Huawei – and others – as a possible network partner for international expansion. The Green Packet Group has set up another division, P1 International, to represent its interests abroad.
In March 2009, the Chilean government announced it had awarded 30MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band to Inverca Telecommunications, which is backed by P1 international to the tune of $100m.