Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Chunghwa launches TV service

ON THE BOX The state-run company will offer a basic 13 channels for NT$150 for people using its high-speed, broadband Internet lines in Keelung and Taipei counties

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A woman yesterday introduces the latest ``multimedia on demand'' television service for residents in northern Taiwan during a press conference held by Chunghwa Telecom.

PHOTO: CHEN HSIANG-LIN, TAIPEI TIMES

Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation's biggest phone company, yesterday started to deliver television signals over its high-speed Internet links to households, making it the first local telecom company to tap into the digital broadcasting sector.

The company began offering the "multimedia-on-demand" (MOD) services to its asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL) subscribers, chairman Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said during a launching ceremony in Taipei County.

"With the launch, Chunghwa Telecom has formally expanded into a new area, which is different from the telecom industry. We hope to provide interactive TV programs for consumers by integrating our broadband network," Hochen said.

The ADSL technology allows TV signals to be sent over ordinary copper phone lines. Chunghwa Telecom has 3 million ADSL subscribers.

Subscribers to the new MOD services will receive digital set-top boxes from Chunghwa Telecom free of charge.

But subscribers will pay a minimum of NT$150 per month for 13 news, entertainment and sports channels with a NT$800 facility-instalment fee. The instalment fee will be waived for the first subscribers.

So far, the service will be available only to households in northern Keelung and Taipei counties, as the company is still negotiating with local governments on charges, the company said.

Chunghwa Telecom expected to have 100,000 subscribers in the first year, rising to 1 million within three years, according to the company.

Shares of Chunghwa rose nearly 1 percent, or NT$0.5, to NT$57 on the TAIEX yesterday.

The move provides more competition to the nation's cable television multi-system operators such as Taiwan Fixed Network Co (台灣固網), Eastern Multimedia Co (東森媒體科技) and China Networking Systems Co (中嘉).

But both Eastern Multimedia and China Networking Systems, which provide digital broadcasting services, said yesterday that they did not see the new player as a threat in the short term.

"Chunghwa Telecom cannot be a threat in the first year because of the scarcity of programs," said Richard Chen (陳光毅), a deputy secretary general of Eastern Multimedia Group (東森媒體集團).

"But it could be a stronger competitor two or three years later," Chen said.

Eastern Multimedia and China Networking Systems made slow progress in expanding their subscriber bases because of an unresolved dispute with local governments over the price of set-top boxes, which are need to descramble television signals and allow for interactive services.

Eastern Multimedia and China Networking Systems have only 30,000 and 10,000 subscribers, respectively.

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