Friday, November 19, 2004

More about Telabria

I had a chance to speak with Jim Baker, founder and CEO of Telabria about the company's plans. They plan to go with a commercial launch in the April-May timeframe, offering voice and data from day one, but don't have aspirations of conquering the world. Mr. Baker said that if by mid-2006 the company has 15,000 subs it will be "extremely happy." Telabria will focus exclusively on Kent in 2005, under a regional network operator strategy. This is interesting, because the Telabria proposition looks to be well-suited to the characteristics of the local market - for example, a lot of local farmland is coming into development as commercial property, and the farmers want to be able to offer potential tenants broadband connectivity, which they can't get anywhere else. There are also a lot of isolated villages, such as Mr. Baker's own (his house has no line of site to Sky, questionable cellular coverage, and no hope of DSL), but he stressed that he doesn't think anyone can build a business case in wireless solely on the residential market.

Coming from a background in streaming media, Mr. Baker is also downbeat on the short-term prospects for video over broadband wireless. He expects that the 5.8GHz business opportunity may mainly lie in the regions of the UK, because in major conurbations, interference issues may be significant enough to thwart a commercial offering. (I'm curious to see if Telabria inspires imitators in areas like Wales and Scotland). That said, Telabria is not solely committed to using unlicensed spectrum, and he thinks things will get a lot more interesting next year when spectrum swapping comes into play. PCCW and Pipex are sitting on the 3.4GHz licenses, though intentions of the latter are unclear to me at this point. I am hoping to arrange a site visit sometime early next year.

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