Maxis Telecommunications Bhd has started a WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) trial with communications infrastructure provider Motorola Inc. 

Though some may speculate the trial is conducted to give the telecommunications company an edge in a WiMAX licence race in the country now, Maxis said WiMAX is a natural technology progression for its current broadband service. 

“We would have done it anyway, even if there was no race,” said Dr Nikolai Dobberstein, Maxis’ head of products and new business. 

The Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications is due to award a WiMAX licence each, in the 2.3GHz range, to two companies over the next few months.  

In the running are Maxis, DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd, TM Bhd, REDtone International Bhd, and NasionCom Holdings Bhd. 

Dobberstein also pointed out that Maxis’ trial is in the 2.5GHz spectrum and not the contested 2.3GHz range. 

With WiMAX, Maxis hopes to improve its broadband Internet data speeds up to 2.8Mbps (megabits per second).  

Currently, with HSDPA (High-speed Downlink Packet Access) technology, Maxis’ broadband service is capable of speeds of up to only 768Kbps (kilobits per second). 

WiMAX technology can be offered over three spectrums – 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz – and the lower the spectrum, the wider the coverage. 

According to Dobberstein, Maxis must move to technology that is better than HSDPA because the limitations of HSDPA would eventually become an efficiency risk to the telco’s services. 

“HSDPA delivers both mobile voice and broadband over the same network so if the number of our broadband subscribers and data traffic were to grow, it is likely to impact voice services on our 3G (third-generation) network,” he explained. 

The trial is being conducted in four selected areas in downtown Kuala Lumpur, including locations around the Petronas Twin Towers.  

Dobberstein declined to name the other areas. “It is a mix of residential and business areas so that we can gauge the impact of WiMAX in these places,” he said. 

The trial will go on until the second quarter of this year. 

With the trial underway, Maxis hopes to use the technology to help the country achieve its goal of broadband in 75% of households by 2010.  

At this time, only 14% of households have broadband Internet, with TMNet Sdn Bhd dominating the market with its streamyx service. 

There is plenty of room for another broadband service provider, said Dobberstein. 

Maxis also hopes to be one of the two companies to get a WiMAX 2.3GHz licence from the Government.  

But if it doesn’t, it will still go on with plans to improve its broadband service. 

“We will see what we can do (if that happens),” Dobberstein said, declining to elaborate further on what those plans entailed.