Fri, Mar 22, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Far EasTone and IBM team up

WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS A local telecom firm and the US-based computer giant said that they will cooperate to provide mobile services for businesses

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Far EasTone Telecommunications Ltd (遠傳電信) and International Business Machines Corp (IBM) yesterday announced a joint project to connect business people to their companies via mobile communications, making Taiwan the second country in Asia, after Japan, to offer such services.

Last month, Taiwanese mobile-phone service companies spent a total of NT$48.9 billion for third-generation wireless licenses. Now, they are seeking ways to make it pay.

The two companies are making available Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino software, which enables e-mail services and short messages to be sent to mobile phones, pagers, PDAs and notebook computers.

"In today's heated competition, time is the key to winning. The `mobilization' of an enterprise will help it to operate more quickly and efficiently," said Jason Hsu (許朱勝), general manager of IBM in Taiwan.

Hsu said salespeople out on calls will be able to access e-mail as well as information stored on the company's servers, enabling them to keep in touch with clients and access information on the spot.

Through the venture, Far Eas-Tone says it will gain access to IBM customers who already use Lotus software on their desktop computers and servers. IBM says its Lotus software has an 85 percent share of the local market, and that nearly three million Taiwanese business people already use it.

Since so many firms already use Lotus on desktop computers, making the jump to mobile Lotus will be relatively easy, the companies said. Since users already understand how the software works, information should be able to flow through mobile software without any hitches.

Around 300 companies have already signed on for the new services, including D-Link Corp (友訊), an information technology product supplier, and Formosa Plastics Corp (台塑), for use with its fleet of gasoline trucks.

Analysts said the move will boost the use of wireless communications services.

"I think [Far EasTone] will be able to increase its air time by maybe 10 to 15 percent [through this deal]," said Nathan Lin (林宗賢), a telecom industry analyst at National Securities Corp (建弘證券) in Taipei.

The rise of high-speed mobile Internet services means demand for new ways to use cellphones will become a key driver of sales growth for telecommunications companies worldwide, Lin said.

Far EasTone and Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大哥大) are leading the local industry in building useful business services, he said.

Far EasTone, through a subsidiary called Yuan-Ze Telecom Co (遠致電信), paid NT$10 billion for its license.

Analysts have said that despite the fact that nearly everyone in Taiwan has a cellphone, the trick for mobile-phone companies is to find services that consumers want to use. In Japan, people pay to download cartoons, pictures, music, play games and other functions on their mobile phones. So far in Taiwan, only the use of simple text messaging has really taken off.

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