Asia Express - East Asian ICT
Data Communications - Wireless Broadband Alliance to Offer International Roaming
November 15, 2004
An agreement was recently reached in San Francisco to create a global broadband alliance that will provide customers with roaming access to wireless broadband when traveling in areas serviced by alliance members. 


The WBA (Wireless Broadband Alliance) encompasses numerous operators, as well as equipment and service providers. The WBA is expanding rapidly and current members include China Netcom (China), Korea Telecom (Korea), Maxis (Malaysia), NTT Communications (Japan), StarHub (Singapore), Telstra (Australia), and T-Mobile (US), among others.


Starting this week, alliance members will open their wi-fi hotspot networks to each other, allowing subscribers to access local networks with the login and password provided by their home operator. The service is free of charge until the end of the year. The rate that will take effect after January 1 has yet to be established.


Prior to joining the WBA, NTT already offered its customers partial roaming coverage in the United States, as part of a previous agreement that NTT had reached in April 2003 with California-based, iPass Inc. Last week, in a related development, NTT DoCoMo announced its acquisition of Inter-touch Ltd, a Singapore-based, wireless internet service provider. NTT purchased the company for 7.4 billion yen (US$70 million) and plans to use the acquisition to offer wireless LAN (Local Area Network) services to its customers traveling abroad.


Inter-touch offers public wireless LAN and related services at hotels by supplying wireless LAN equipment. The company has operations covering 155 hotels in 28 countries, including Singapore, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and France. The deal marked NTT DoCoMo's first outright acquisition of an overseas company.