Malaysia's Packet One Falls Short of WiMax Subscriber Target

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One year after Packet One Networks began offering commercial WiMax services in Malaysia, the company has yet to sign up the 100,000 subscribers that it originally hoped to enlist within its first year.

In a statement released to mark the first anniversary of Packet One's WiMax service, Green Packet -- Packet One's parent company -- said the operator signed up "over 80,000 subscribers" during its first year of commercial operation. That figure is substantially lower than the target announced by Packet One CEO Michael Lai in August 2008, when he said the company's goal was to have 100,000 subscribers within the first year of commercial operation.

A spokeswoman for Green Packet did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

WiMax is a wide-area wireless networking technology that's been positioned as a better option than cellular technology for high-speed wireless Internet access. The technology has received strong backing from companies like Intel, but has been slow to take off. Part of the problem has been a lack of mobile devices that support WiMax. Without a wide range of such devices on offer, operators have a more difficult time winning over many customers.

Intel, which backed Green Packet's WiMax plans with a 50 million ringgit (US$13.9 million) investment in 2008, made WiMax an option on some laptops that used its Centrino 2 chip package. But those plans only included support for WiMax networks that use the 2.5GHz network spectrum, not the 2.3GHz band used by Packet One and others.

Mobile WiMax devices that support the 2.3GHz flavor of WiMax have long been available in South Korea, even before Packet One launched its service. However, Packet One's WiMax service was first aimed at users who wanted fixed-wireless Internet access at home and the company did not begin offering a USB WiMax modem for laptops until earlier this year.

Called Wiggy, the modem gave users access to Packet One's WiMax network from outside their homes. The modem's release helped give Packet One's subscriber numbers a boost. In February, the company had just 10,000 subscribers, according to IDC. Between March and August, the company added a further 70,000 subscribers.

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