ECONOMY

Broadband Internet set to become widely available

Two upcoming tenders, for broadband networks in regions outside Attica (budgeted at 210 million euros) and for a countrywide license for a WIMAX (wireless broadband access) network, are expected to bring new players into the telecommunications sector. International interest in the WIMAX network has proved scant, but includes an upcoming, and ambitious, US company, Clearwire, through its Luxembourg-based subsidiary Clearwire Europe. Clearwire is one of the seven bidders for the license. Clearwire is aggressively pursuing any WIMAX license tendered out in Europe. It has obtained licenses in Ireland and in Denmark. Clearwire was founded in 2003 by well-known telecoms billionaire Craig McCaw. Telecoms over power cables It is not known whether Clearwire will team up with a Greek company. One US company that will do so, for the regional broadband networks, is Amperion, which specializes in equipment that enables voice and data communications over medium-voltage electricity grids. Amperion is teaming up with Public Power Corporation (PPC), which plans to set up a consortium involving Amperion and Tellas, PPC’s telecommunications and Internet subsidiary. There are rumors that Siemens might join the consortium. There is reportedly dissension among PPC managers over teaming up with Amperion and allowing it to install its equipment on PPC’s grid without facing international competition. Other foreign companies, such as Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, have expressed interest in the regional broadband networks tender but, so far, it is not certain that they will submit binding bids. The government’s plan to create «fast Internet» infrastructures in regions outside Athens and Thessaloniki was approved last week by the European Commission and the tender for the regional broadband networks will be published in the coming weeks. The government is subsidizing investments that will allow the vast majority of Greeks access to broadband networks. That is why the consent of the Commission, which ruled that the subsidy does not constitute illegal state aid, was necessary. The tender divides Greece into seven regions and interested bidders can bid for the rights to up to three of these, to avoid monopolies or oligopolistic concentrations. The tender provides for the bidders to choose between wired solutions (e.g. optical fiber cables) and wireless ones (e.g. WIMAX) in building their networks. It also sets minimum coverage amounts in this regions and limits monthly charges to 33 euros (plus VAT) for households and 54 euros (plus VAT) for enterprises. Economy Ministry officials, however, have expressed concerns that these charges might be too high, especially since OTE, the country’s main Internet service provider through its subsidiary OTEnet, plans to cut its fixed charges for ADSL connections significantly. If so, these limits may be revised downward by the time the tender’s terms are published.