Fri, Sep 16, 2005 - Page 10 News List

New 3G services may take time to take off: insiders

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The much-vaunted third-generation (3G) mobile service may take two years to take off in the local market, a handset distributor said yesterday.

"There are still some technical issues to be resolved before 3G can really become popular here," said Suk Chung-tek (石清澤), executive director of Well Chain Science Co (偉聯通科技), which distributes mobile phones from South Korea's Pantech in Taiwan through Arcoa Communication Co (全虹) chain-store group.

The 3G technology features rich multimedia functions and will allow users to surf the Internet, stream real-time videos, watch movies and send data at high speeds.

In Taiwan, the industry front-runner, Asia Pacific Broadband Wireless Communications Inc (亞太行動寬頻), launched the nation's first 3G service in July 2003. But it was only during this year that Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation's biggest phone company, and its local peers such as Taiwan Mobile Corp (台灣大哥大) and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信) decided to follow suit with their 3G services. The industry's latest debutant Vibo Telecom Inc (威寶電信) is scheduled to present its 3G technology next month.

Even so, according to Suk, the 3G base stations and image-transfer technicality will still need to be improved before applications can be put into full commercial operation for a larger base of users.

However, in view of the business opportunities presented by the next-generation technology, Well Chain is poised to bring in seven Pantech handsets with 3G capability in the first quarter of next year, he said.

It aims to push Pantech's local market share to five percent by the end of next year, with monthly sales reaching 30,000 units, according to Suk. Pantech currently has a 2 percent market share and sells around 10,000 to 15,000 handsets every month.

To help achieve this goal, a budget of NT$30 million has been earmarked for next year's advertising and promotion activities, he said.

Commenting on the government's decision to open up the market for cheaper made-in-China imported handsets as soon as this month, Suk said the impact is not expected to be significant.

"Local consumers will still prefer prominent brands with superior quality," he said, adding that Chinese manufacturers will need to improve their handset quality and services before their products can earn consumers' support and loyalty.

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