Fri, Mar 22, 2002 - Page 17 News List

3G licensees call for government assistance

TELECOMS New entrants into the third-generation mobile phone service market are finding it next to impossible to find suitable locations in Taipei for base stations

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's two newest telecom players made an appeal to the government for help locating suitable sites for third-generation base stations.

A failure to build the required 250 stations by each of the five licensees could delay the launch of 3G services, industry pundits said.

"Most of the locations in the Greater Taipei area are already occupied by mobile-phone service operators," said Alex Lin (林芝聖), a senior manager at Taiwan 3G Mobile Network Inc (聯邦電信), formerly known as Taiwan PCS Network Inc.

Wireless base stations act as transmitting centers for mobile-phone signals. In residential areas, the station can be as small as a refrigerator, while in rural areas it can be as large as a truck.

Lin made the comments at a public hearing held yesterday at the Legislative Yuan's Telecommunications Committee.

Another license winner agreed with Lin, saying station location is a tough entry barrier for new market entrants.

"It's difficult for new entrants to find suitable places to set up base stations in northern Taiwan," said Claudia Peng (彭淑芬), a deputy manager at Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless Communication Inc (亞太行動寬頻).

There are already about 22,000 base stations in Taiwan and 3G operators are expected to establish another 16,000 over next few years.

The government issued five 3G licenses in February, with bidding prices totaling NT$48.9 billion.

Three of the five license winners -- Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大哥大), Far EasTone Telecommunications Ltd's (遠傳電信) subsidiary Yuan-Ze Telecom Co (遠致電信) and state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) -- are already wireless operators, while Asia Pacific and Taiwan 3G are new to the mobile-phone service sector.

According to the Directorate General of Telecommunications, all licensees are required to set up at least 250 base stations by 2004 to receive their operating licenses.

In response to the licensees' difficulties, the government has decided to lend a hand.

"All buildings that belong to Ministry of Transportation and Communications will become available for mobile operators to set up their base stations," said Kao Kai-Sheng (高凱聲), deputy director of the directorate.

More public buildings may be designated for such use in the future, he said.

One licensee also suggestd that government allocate a portion of the NT$48.9 billion generated from the licensing fees for research on telecommunications projects.

"The government, for example, can establish a telecommunications research center," said Albert Lin (林敬堯), a manager at Yuan-Ze.

Kao said that such a plan had already been rejected by lawmakers.

"Two years ago, the directorate applied for an NT$20 billion budget for a telecommunications research center, but the Legislative Yuan didn't approve the request," Kao said.

This year he plans to apply for an NT$2 billion budget and hopes mobile companies can donate to such a center as well.

A telecommunications industry research center would be designed to focus on technology research and development, market studies and ongoing deregulation initiatives, he said.

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