Sat, Sep 11, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Taiwan to produce first dual-mode cellphones

WIRELESS NETWORKING BenQ and Mitac are in the final stages of work on the world's first handsets that would enable users to access GPRS and WLAN services

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese mobile phone makers are expected to unveil the world's first dual-mode handsets enabling fast wireless Internet access by the end of the year, an industrial association said yesterday.

Users will be able to surf the Internet faster and cheaper using a GPRS handset equipped with wireless LAN (or WLAN) capabilities in the near future, said Peter Wu (吳治平), a vice president of Acer Inc who doubles as chairman of the newly-established Wireless LAN Exchange Association (WLAN交流會).

"Using the phone, Web surfers will be able to be connected to the Internet through their mobile operator's GPRS services on the run. When arriving at a hot spot, they can switch to lower-priced WLAN services to browse Web pages or access e-mails on bandwidths of 2 megabits or 8 megabits," Wu said.

BenQ Corp (明基電通), the nation's top mobile phone maker, and local competitor Mitac International Corp (神達電腦) are in the final testing stage to launch their first models by the end of the year, Wu said. The rollout will make Taiwan a leader in incorporating the two wireless technologies on a single mobile phone, Wu said.

The association currently has around 60 members, including Tatung Co (大同) and state-run telecoms carrier Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信). The organization is recruiting members now.

"It's true that these dual-mode handsets started coming into the limelight recently as the number of hot spots increase, but there are obstacles ahead to overcome," said Peggy Chang (張意珮), an analyst with Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業研究所).

For handset manufacturers, the problem of extending battery life is a formidable challenge, as the batteries commonly used in most handsets will not last longer than an hour when users surf the Net on a dual-mode phone, Chang said.

Spotty hot spot networks and a new business model involving mobile phone operators and WLAN service providers were among some of the most important issues for the new business, she said.

As people have not cultivated the habit of accessing the Net in wireless Internet hot spots at coffee shops or fast-food chains, WLAN service providers such as Yaw Jenq Technology Corp (曜正科技) are still losing money.

Another problem is presented by voice calls utilizing WLAN technology, which will involve amendments to existing telecoms laws, she said.

"It's a bumpy road ahead before these services can be made available," Chang said.

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