Wed, Aug 08, 2001 - Page 17 News List

Cost of calls to US, China to plummet

TELECOMS New Century InfoComm's long-distance service, along with other new entrants, will end Chunghwa's monopoly on long-distance services

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

The battle for the nation's long-distance phone market just got hotter with two new services firing up their international service within two days.

New Century InfoComm Tech Co Ltd (新世紀資通) launched its Sparq (速博) brand service yesterday while rival Taiwan Fixed Network Co (台灣固網) is slated to start its service today.

Sparq, which was officially launched on March 2, was unable to provide service to subscribers until yesterday because of a network interconnection delay with the state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co Ltd (中華電信).

All fixed-line phone companies rely on Chunghwa's network to reach end users.

The delay of the service has forced Sparq to modify its original income prediction for this year.

"Because of the service delay and the depreciation of the New Taiwan dollar, Sparq's sales estimate until the end of this year has been lowered to NT$40 billion from the NT$50 billion target set back in March," said Daniel Chang (張嘉祥), chief financial officer at Sparq.

Sparq hopes to sign on 300,000 to 500,000 consumers and 20,000 to 40,000 business customers by year's end, he said, with a goal to break even in the next four to six years. Another Sparq executive said that in the present economic downturn, businesses require both quality service and affordable prices.

"Companies need cheaper and better telecom services to reinforce their competitive edge in these difficult times," said Douglas Hsu (徐旭東) chairman of Sparq.

He said total local fixed-line market revenue will be worth some NT$1.5 trillion this year.

Sparq is attracting customers with first time sign-up discounts. Ken Chang (陳鄭垚), vice president of Sparq's marketing and sales division, said that for the next three months, users can call the US for NT$2.7 per minute and China for NT$3.99 per minute.

Chunghwa's long-distance rates are NT$6 per minute for calls to the US and NT$12 per minute for China.

Customers can sign up for Sparq's service at over 2,000 convenience stores and the company promises to have applicants hooked up within a day.

"Twenty-four hours after we receive the application form, customers will be able to dial the 007 prefix to activate the service without changing phone numbers or paying any monthly fee," Chang said.

Another new kid on the block -- Taiwan Fixed Network -- is poised to launch their service today.

"The saving rates we're going to offer definitely won't disappoint customers," said Ting Hsien-wen (丁憲文), public relations assistant manager at Taiwan Fixed Network, although he refused to release specific rates.

Back in June, the first private firm to compete with Chunghwa Telecom for long-distance services in the domestic market was Eastern Broadband Telecom Co Ltd (東森電信). Eastern immediately undercut Chunghwa's prices in a two-month promotional effort offering NT$2.79 per minute calls to the US and NT$4.85 per minute to China.

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