Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 11 News List

Lack of handsets, gliches hinder 3G

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

With Taiwan set to enter the third-generation (3G) mobile-service era this month, telecom industry pundits said yesterday that the high-speed mobile Internet service is not expected to become mainstream in the market for several years.

"There are still a lot of technology and [software] application problems [with 3G handsets]," said Jason Lin (林一平), a professor in National Chiao Tung University's department of computer science and information engineering.

"The chances of 3G services becoming popular in Taiwan before 2005 are very low," he said.

Third-generation mobile services enable users to access advanced multi-media data services such as multi-media messaging, entertainment and mobile-location search services via their handsets.

Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless Communication Inc (亞太行動寬頻), one of the nation's five 3G licensees, plans to launch Taiwan's first high-speed mobile service on July 25.

Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大哥大), Yuan-Ze Telecom Co (遠致電信), Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) and Taiwan PCS Network Inc (聯邦電信) are talking about entering the 3G market late this year or early next year.

One industry veteran said the transition from the current mobile-service standards to 3G may be a long journey.

"We estimate 3G is not going to dominate the local telecom market until 2007," said Shih Mu-piao (石木標), chief engineer of Chunghwa's mobile-business group.

Shih made the remarks at a 3G forum held in Taipei yesterday.

Industry representatives from mobile-service operators, as well 3G licensees, attended the meeting, which focused on how to smooth the transition to 3G.

The majority of cellphones currently on the market lack 3G compatibility. That lack is a major headache.

In an effort to make the migration to 3G easier for consumers, service operators intend to use dual-mode handsets that allow subscribers to switch from current mobile systems to a 3G network easily.

"But the price of dual-mode handsets is extremely high right now, around US$500 apiece," Lin said.

In addition, dual-mode handsets still have many software problems and the battery life is short, he said.

Even though most major handset makers such as Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronic Co hope to begin commercially producing dual-mode handsets in the third quarter of this year, they may encounter technology delays, Shih said.

However, no handsets means no 3G service.

"Chunghwa doesn't plan to com-mercially launch its 3G service until the handset problem is solved," Shih said. "And that may mean early next year."

The company is currently conducting a test run of its 3G system on Taipei's Jenai Road, using Nokia's 6650 handsets and Motorola's A830 handsets.

In an effort to differentiate its 3G services from current technology, Chunghwa plans to lure customers by offering video content that will allow users to watch short videos on their handsets or check on their pets at home by connecting to home-based digital cameras.

Chunghwa's 3G network is designed to transmit Internet data at 384kbps (kilobits per second), three times faster than current networks or 33 times faster than traditional mobile-data services.

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