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Wireless internet players strengthen their position

By Nicholas Bryant

Friday 17th March 2000

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Sky Tower TRANSMISSION SITE: Walker Wireless' site on top of Auckland's Sky Tower
The two major players in the hotly-fought wireless internet business made deals in the past week while new competition nipped at their heels.

Walker Wireless, a company which until recently had little competition, announced a landlord deal with TVNZ-subsidiary BCL to place antennae on more than 400 of its key locations.

The network includes high points over the major metropolitan areas, ensuring coverage in critical population and business centres.

Walker Wireless managing director Paul Ryan said an advantage it had over main rival Radionet was it could offer its product without having to build a network of high points "slowly" around the country.

While Walker Wireless was closing the BCL deal, the Wilson Neill-owned Radionet got a boost of its own. Visiting Australian equities analysts scooped up 10 million Wilson Neill shares, impressed by Radionet's technology and scope for growth.

Wilson Neill director Paul Hyslop said those transactions were a catalyst for frenzied buying of his company's shares on the secondary market.

The stock price went from 10.5c last Monday to 16.3c this Monday, hitting a high of 17.3c on Friday on a seven-day turnover of nearly 20 million shares. Mr Hyslop hopes US equities analysts hosted by the company would feel the same way as the Australians.

Radionet chief executive Leicester Chatfield reiterated Wilson Neill's, and now the international, investment meant POP (points of presence) growth would be more rapid than initially envisaged.

Quick to recognise the growth potential, more firms have hitched their carts to the wireless bandwagon.

One, which offers a range of wireless and fixed-line services, is Safetynet, the surprise-buy target of troubled Savoy Equities.

While analysts initially called Savoy's $7 million purchase of 70% of the 18-month-old Safetynet nothing but a cynical dot-com makeover, it looks like the move to diversify from property could prove fruitful for the ex-Britomart crew.

Other companies targeting wireless are Clear Communications and Dutch-based satellite provider Chello.

The race is on to sign up business customers to wireless internet services. The broadband wireless technology, pitched at pure, high-internet use, is ideal for businesses wanting rapid delivery of quality images and data.

That was the reason behind yet another advertising agency opting for wireless last week, the New Zealand office of agency Lowe Lintas & Partners, which chose Walker Wireless - also its client.

And a further boost to Walker Wireless' business is expected, with New Zealand Herald publisher Wilson & Horton expected to sign up.

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