It’s Tuesday, December 12th, 2006 and the WiMAX auction in Germany as discussed in this previous entry has begun. Things are looking great for the future of wireless in Germany as three of the six participating companies intend to get licenses for nationwide networks.
The "Computer Club 2", a German weekly tech podcast has interviewed Fabio Zoffi, CEO of DBD (Deutsche Breitband Dienste) before the start of the auction. Here are the main points that were mentioned in the (German) podcast and my humble opinion on them:
Phased Equipment Evolution
Zoffi said that their are aiming for a phased equipment rollout strategy: Starting in January 2007 they will expand their already existing network to other regions. For customers, they will offer fixed mobile terminals, i.e. set top boxes to compete with DSL. According to pictures of the Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in this blog entry, they are currently using Airspan’s EasyST kit. For these set top boxes, transmission speeds of 2 MBit/s in downlink and 300 kbit/s in uplink are/will be offered. Later in 2007 they will start shipping WiMAX notebook cards and in 2008 notebooks with built in WiMAX chips. These will enable customers to access the Internet not only at home but also in other cities where their network is available. During the interview Zoffi also mentioned WiMAX mobile phones which Nokia has talked about in the past couple of weeks. These might be available in about two years from now. While he’s sticking to the time-lines given by Intel and others on the availability of end user equipment my experience tells me that actual products are usually delayed somewhat. But the EasyST kit is available now so expansion of the network can start as soon as the licenses are in their hands.
Zoffi said during the interview that about 10.000 base stations are required for nationwide coverage with a network deployment phase of about 5 years. In my opinion these numbers are quite realistic. Therefore, DBD is not daydreaming in terms of what it takes. Note, however, that he did not commit that his company would deploy that many base stations. It remains to be seen how much of the country will really be covered in the end. To make the network attractive to be used with notebook cards and other mobile equipment, however, the company has to aim for coverage of both big and small cities.
According to DBD’s website, the basic tariff today includes 1.5 GB of data traffic for €27.-, 5 GB for €35.- and €40.- for 10GB. If users sign a 24 months contract, the WiMAX modem is free. Installation of the equipment at home by a partner company costs €70.- and an additional €25.- if an external antenna is required. Compared to current DSL offers, pricing is roughly similar. It has to be said though, that there are no volume limits anymore on DSL lines which make the prices less attractive in regions where DSL is available. The big plus on the other hand is the fact that no fixed line phone line is required anymore which costs DSL customers an additional €15.- a month. As WiMAX supports VoIP the offer could become attractive again.
Network Rollout Financing
An ambitious network rollout requires a lot of money up front. DBD might have some of that required cash already with Intel Capital having invested an undisclosed sum in the company according to this news article.