Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Netherlands: towards one big hotspot

The Netherlands is a small country. It takes maximally three hours to cross the Netherlands from the South to the North and two hours from the sea to the German border. This is of course on days that there are no traffic jams. Besides this compact country, the four largest cities (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) form one metropolis, called Randstad. Now a cable company wants to make one big hotspot of the country.

The Dutch cable company Casema has acquired the Wireless Local Loop (WLL) license from the former owner, Versatel (Tele-2) for the use of WIMAX. This is interesting. Versatel was recently acquired by Tele-2, a telecom company competing with the Dutch incumbent telco KPN. Versatel was awarded the football rights to the premier division of the Dutch football league. All the more reason to use the WIMAX license, you would think.

Casema is an independent Dutch cable company, which is for sale. The cable company has a turbulent background of change of owners: KPN, Wanadoo and venture capitalists. Their customer service does not win the first place and especially not the administrative service, but one of the remarkable features of Casema is that they have always been very innovative in comparison to the other cable companies.

So now they have bought the WIMAX license from Versatel. For Versatel the license was not really expensive (760.000 euro) in comparison to UMTS licenses. And Casema will not have paid much for talking over the license, especially after Versatel was threatened by the Dutch telco watchdog OPTA for executing plans or paying fines.

Why is interesting for a Dutch cable company to go into WIMAX. In the Netherlands cable companies are geographically confined. There was no competition in the area of a particular cable company. With triple play things are changing slowly. Just as people only slowly leave the incumbent telecom operator, i.c. KPN, so also people do not easily change over from cable to a triple play operator; certainly when the voip services are still graded from unreliable to lousy. Using WIMAX a cable company is able to expand from a regional service into a national at a low price. For WIMAX which services an area of 50 square kilometres less masts are needed than for GSM and UMTS/3G. So with fewer masts than the wireless telecom companies Casema can storm the national market. Besides WIMAX is faster than UMTS/3G. It will start with business parks and remote countrysides and build up to the urban conglomerations. Casema will be the first company to attack the consumer WIMAX market. The other license holder sticks to a business audience.

What does Casema want to do with the network? It will be able to offer television, internet and telephone, triple wireless play. The company has already promised that it will not compete with the other wireless telcos on voice and SMS, but on new services. Strong point of the cable company is of course that they have already agreements over the television content. Internet and telephone are network exercises. So television is the attraction: wireless television in cars, combined with internet and telephone. So you can walk out of the house, take you mini tv screen along on the bus, in the train or in the car. Ubiquity for content and communication at last; or as one of the Casema officials said: We will make one big hotspot of this country.


Blog Posting Number: 383

No comments: