Mobilink plans to Deploy Wimax-RevE network with Alcatel — will consumers win?

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Mobilink and Alcatel-Lucent announced today that they will be deploying a live network based on the Wimax-Rev-e standard in the major cities of Pakistan. According to the press release on the Alcatel website:

Based on the latest IEEE 802.16e-2005 standards (also called Rev-e), the new WiMAX network will be deployed in the 3.5 GHz spectrum enabling rapid implementation of broadband services available in fixed and nomadic environments. It will deliver high-speed internet access, enabling the delivery of advanced broadband multimedia services, such as video streaming, through a variety of end-user devices including laptops, desktop computers, modems and WiMAX terminals.

“The deployment of WiMAX will enable our subsidiaries to complement their GSM offering with broadband services,” said Tamer El Mahdi, CTO of Orascom Telecom Holding.

“The introduction of WiMAX will help us address the needs of our corporate and residential subscribers in Pakistan who want the ability to access wireless broadband services everywhere and at anytime,” said Marwan Hayek, CTO of Mobilink.

I would take this announcement with a grain of salt though — no news on when (and IF) this deployment will take place — does anyone remember Worldcall and a number of other ISPs (and Wateen for that matter) entering the Wimax market and becoming vapourware?

Here are some thoughts on the Wimax market in general…

The trouble with Wimax in Pakistan wouldn’t be so much the technology as much as it might be the orthodox distribution plans telecos consider when rolling these things out.

Wimax provides companies a way to disrupt the ISP / DSL market for consumers because they could easily provide much better speeds at much lower costs. Still, most of the telecos who have considered Wimax have always mentioned a rollout plan starting with corporate customers and slowly trickling into the masses.

This means both limited services (e.g. VPN and multi-site video conferencing solutions to corporate customers, rather than formally implementing 3G / triple-play services for consumers) and (2) usually it means no price advantage — even if prices *could* be drastically cheaper, hey why not reap the profits through corporate customers first.

This second point may seem great for business, but it demonstrates poor CSR. When Micronet DSL and Nayatel started their triple-play venture they had a similar opportunity to disrupt the market, but they didn’t.

They didn’t because of the same reason that many markets in Pakistan do not follow free-market rules in their entirety — when options for consumers are limited and regulation control is wishful, the few suppliers can always get together and decide on a price band with enormous margins and no one would know better. It is like when you go to buy memory for your laptop, and that computer shop guy says “Oh… there’s some supply issues, importing is difficult, hence prices are high.” Who can check this? Especially when everyone is singing the same tune?

So with Nayatel, instead of finding the chance to be inspired by newer, better, faster ways of working or living lives, all that happened was that people like me and other consumers alike had to bear with salesmen with inflated-egos presenting value propositions like “Well, yes it costs the same and is still limited to the same speed and same capacity… but its FIBRE!”

This sounds familiar to the “…but its MASTERCARD” argument presented by Credit Card salesmen…. are consumers in Pakistan really that gullible?

Coming back to Mobilink’s Wimax initiative, we have been hearing bits and pieces of this initiative for a year now, and I dont know how much closer a press release will bring them to actually “reshaping lives”

Facebook comments:


  • interesting analysis, although in my POV the purpose behind targeting the corporate market is two-fold:

    1)they’re not sure of their own ability(HR) and capacity(H/W) to handle large a subscription base

    2)like you said higher profit margins, more so from smaller direct & overhead costs associated with handling fewer customers.

    This is indeed Ironic, since:

    1) The “corporate market” will never be comfortable handing over their enterprise data networks to a startup using an un proven technology (since the decision making process is more risk averse than for an individual) and

    2) They’re more concerned about the reputation of the firm they’re buying from compared to the average joe.

  • I would look at it in a more postive way. Being part of a another operator, I look at it as a potential challenge in the market.

    Airtel in India i suppose took up similar position of turning itself into a broadband service provider.

    Considering the spread of network the local telecom / mobile operators have, the existing infrastructure is present therefore the CAPEX investment only pertains to the one time deployment. The usual support costs come later on.
    The point that need to be stressed is, these initiatives can help turn the much barren, data less areas in the country into data friendly areas. Yes there is not much literate population to utilize it, but its all about the initiative.

  • Are you guys going to cover PTCL’s IPTV thing that they’re bringing out soon? Got a call from their representative and headed on over here to see if you guys had covered it yet. Any information on it at all…whatsoever?

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