BigAir announces list plans after Veritel buy

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Wireless provider BigAir plans to list on the ASX to raise up to $10 million for further expansion in the wake of its recent acquisition of Veritel Wireless.

Wireless provider BigAir plans to list on the ASX to raise up to $10 million for further expansion in the wake of its recent acquisition of Veritel Wireless.

Jason Ashton, managing director at BigAir, said the wireless ISP had lodged a prospectus with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in an attempt to raise some $10 million, offering 40 million shares at 25 cents each.

Market capitalisation of BigAir on listing was expected to come in around $23.5 million at the price offered.

"We'll be deploying our fixed wireless network, expanding it through parts of Sydney but also other capital cities," Ashton said.

He said it had not yet been decided which capital cities would come first on BigAir's list, but Brisbane, Canberra or Adelaide looked most likely. BigAir already had access to Melbourne via its partnership with local wireless player Access Providers, he said.

"I think there has been enormous traction in the last 12 months, since [consumer wireless ISP] Unwired entered the market. That generated a lot of interest in the Sydney market, especially because it really raised the awareness level for wireless," Ashton said.

Unwired had spent a lot of money on marketing and advertising wireless broadband to Sydney consumers and companies like BigAir were to some extent riding the crest of that wave, he said.

"In IDC projections, [wireless] is the fastest growing segment in the [telecommunications] market. Three times faster than broadband, which is growing fast these days," Ashton said.

Recent IDC figures have suggested that wireless broadband might reach 386,000 services in Australia by 2009 and generate about $243 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, BigAir had acquired Veritel Wireless. That purchase broadened BigAir's offering to include iBurst and Unwired-style services as well as fixed wireless, Ashton said.

"We can give customers some mobile and wireless and provide them with a VPN link too if they need it," he said. "It gives us a more comprehensive wireless offering."

Veritel Wireless had an exclusive deal with mass market retailer Harvey Norman for the resale of mobile wireless broadband service iBurst. Also, a more comprehensive wireless offering would help BigAir provide redundancies and Quality of Service to customers, Ashton noted.

"It's nice to be Telstra-independent and offer business a full solution that covers all their requirements," he said.

Veritel Wireless was not yet profitable but was "close to break even" and had about 4000 customers through its iBurst and Unwired partnerships, he said.

"For us, it's a bit of a land grab. We have been getting sites all over Sydney, building a network and customer base and looking for strategic acquisitions," Ashton said. "We really want to be the wireless one-stop shop, as it were."

VoIP over wireless was another coming opportunity. BigAir could also offer business grade VoIP across its fixed wireless network, Ashton said.

The lead broker for BigAir's IPO is BBY. The IPO would close 30 November and BigAir was expected to list 8 December, according to a BigAir statement.

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