RealTime IT News

Winstar Wireless Gets Peruvian Spectrum Grant

Winstar Communications Inc. gained an foothold in Latin America Friday when the Peruvian government issued the firm a spectrum license to operate its wireless network.

The license grants the company's use of the regions 200 MHz frequency in the 38 GHz spectrum band for point-to-point and multi-point services. The New York-based wireless broadband firm plans to launch network operations by mid-2001.

Kathleen Flaherty, Winstar president and chief executive officer, believes the license to operate in Peru is an important step in the company's continued expansion into foreign markets.

"This grant is an important step in our efforts to expand the reach of Winstar's network and services in South America," Flaherty said.

Wireless Internet connections are expected to play a large role in the development of e-commerce in Latin American countries, due to the antiquated state of the region's telecommunication services.

Despite recent expansion of the Latin American backbone by foreign investors, only one percent of Latin America is currently connected to the Net.

According to figures released by the Latin America Network Information Center, more and more Latin American companies are hosting country-level domain names for a public that isn't able to access the Web.

Peru experienced a 215 percent increase in registered domain names between 1998 and 1999. Only 3,830 domains were registered in July 1998, while a total of 8,247 domains were registered by July 1999. Despite the growth of regional Web content, only .5 percent of Latin American's own a computer, and only 6 percent have access to a telephone that could provide wired access to the Internet.

Winstar believes wireless Internet access can fill in the gap between content and consumers in South America. It is expanding efforts in countries outside of the U.S. as part of its initiative to reach undeveloped regions. Winstar's Latin American gamble is betting that the region would be highly receptive to developing high-speed wireless access to the Internet.

Winstar is also in the process of deploying broadband wireless services in Mexico, Brazil, and Columbia. Success in Peru could open the door to other Latin American countries hesitant to invest valuable spectrum licenses to buildout wireless communication services.

Initially, Winstar intends to target the business-to-business market segment in Latin America. As of yet, no companies have signed on for services in Peru. But Joe Tomkowicz, Winstar director of corporate communications, is confident a the company can successfully come to market in Latin America, much like a "Field of Dreams" made baseball legends come alive. The premise is simple, built it, and the will come.

"Once companies find out we have to offer, they'll be able to reach us to set up service," Tomkowicz said.

Investors remain optimistic that Winstar could make a solid bid to dominate the Latin American wireless broadband market. The company's shareholders benefited from a 3-for-2 stock split earlier this year when Microsoft Corp. and a group of venture capital firms invested $900 million in the wireless company.