Macedonia’s Wi-fi Dream
Monday, February 27, 2006
(editor’s note: In 2005, Macedonia was ranked 107th by GDP-per-capita, according to the CIA World Factbook)
?The Internet is like the sea?it?s the only way for Macedonia to work with the rest of the world,? says Mr. Cemerikic, who envisions a new economy built on information services, software, and Internet-based companies.
Landlocked Macedonia has a flat economy, mountainous, earthquake-prone terrain, and potentially explosive ethnic conflicts?hardly the stuff of an emerging global technology pioneer. Yet the former Yugoslav republic is only months away from claiming a tech first: building the world?s largest countrywide Wi-Fi network. (…)?
Maktel, owned by Hungarian operator Matav, enjoyed state-sponsored monopoly status for decades. It charges a whopping $40 per month for Internet connections, which helps to explain why Internet penetration in Macedonia has reached barely more than 5 percent, the overwhelming majority dial-up.(…) In April 2005, federal legislation ended Maktel?s monopoly in Macedonia, opening the way for On.Net, the country?s first low-cost broadband alternative.
(…) Also last April, On.Net won a competitive bid to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to build a wireless backbone in Skopje, home to half of the country?s 2 million citizens. Mr. Cemerikic says On.Net will begin extensions to three more cities over the next three months, and the national network will be fully functional by the end of 2006.
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