Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Telecom firm eyes cable market

EXPANDING AMBITIONS New Century InfoComm is looking to do a deal with a local cable television operator, and China Network seems to be the most obvious candidate


New Century InfoComm Tech Co (新世紀資通), a fixed-line telecom operator owned by Far Eastern Group (遠東集團), is seeking an alliance with a local cable television operator as part of a plan to tap into the TV business, a company executive said yesterday.

The remarks came after foreign media groups Carlyle Group and Macquarie Media Group recently announced plans to purchase stakes in Taiwan's major cable TV operators.

Carlyle's bid to acquire a controlling stake in Eastern Multimedia Co (東森媒體科技) won the regulator's approval last week, while Macquarie bought Taiwan Broadband Communications (台灣寬頻) from Carlyle in December.

"We are interested in entering the cable TV business ? We may look for an alliance with cable TV providers. It's too expensive to buy one," said Douglas Hsu (徐旭東), chairman of New Century InfoComm, also known as Sparq.

He made the comments when answering a reporter's question about whether New Century InfoComm planned to buy the nation's biggest cable TV operator China Network Systems Co (中嘉網路), which controls almost a quarter of Taiwan's cable TV market.

According to National Communications Commission statistics, Eastern Multimedia had 1.05 million subscribers, or a 23.4 percent market share, as of Dec. 31, followed by China Network with 21.8 percent and Taiwan Broadband with 13.6 percent.

New Century InfoComm is currently leasing bandwidth to China Network, which makes China Network an obvious potential partner for the company.

"We are in talks with China Network about further cooperation," said Kevin Lin (林志峰), a vice president of New Century InfoComm.

"There's a growing trend for the convergence of Internet, phones and TVs, or the so-called Tripleplay service," Lin said.

Lin said New Century InfoComm planned to deliver TV programs over its broadband networks sometime next year to compete with bigger rival state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信).

Rival Taiwan Fixed Network Co (台灣固網) owns cable TV company Pacific Broadband Co (富洋媒體科技) and plans to expand the market share via cooperation with its peers.

Market watchers speculated that Taiwan Fixed Network would cooperate with Macquarie Media Group via a share swap to expand their customer base to a point where they could compete with Eastern Multimedia and China Network.

But Taiwan Fixed Network chairman Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) denied such a possibility.

"We certainly hope to boost our market presence, but we are in no hurry to expand our TV business at the moment," he said.

Pacific Broadband currently has about 400,000 subscribers.

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