Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 12 News List

New Century gets go-ahead for Internet phone services


New Century Infocomm Tech Co (新世紀資通) yesterday received approval to offer Internet phone services, making the fixed-line and broadband operator the first telecom company to obtain permission to tap into the fast-growing market.

New Century may start offering the services in the first quarter of next year at the earliest, allowing users to communicate by voice, data and image, if the company has its equipment ready by the end of the year, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said.

Subscribers would have phone numbers similar to those of mobile users, starting with "070," specially designated for Internet phoning, or fixed-lines offered by New Century, the commission said.

Currently, people such as Skype subscribers can only make phone calls on the Internet via computers, as the government restricted local operators from offering the service, citing security problems.

But using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology has become increasingly popular, because the charges are lower than for calls made from fixed-line and mobile phone numbers.

New Century said that the charges for its new services would be "competitive."

"We believe it will bring potential growth for us by expanding into the Internet phone market," said Eastt Wu (吳熙筠), an assistant manager of New Century.

New Century said its losses had narrowed in the first half of the year to NT$525 million (US$15.89 million) -- or negative NT$0.11 a share -- compared to losses of NT$842 million, or negative NT$0.18, a share during the same period last year.

Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation's biggest phone company, also "hopes to offer the service as it is becoming a trend for people to make phone calls on the Internet," spokesman Chang Feng-hsiung (張豐雄) said in a telephone interview.

Chunghwa Telecom has submitted a proposal to the NCC and expects to get permission to provide Internet phone services soon, Chang said.

Sales of Chunghwa's fixed-line business dropped 6 percent year-on-year, to NT$45.86 billion in the first three quarters of the year, partly because Internet phoning operators have started to erode its market share, it said last week.

Fixed-line units made up 33 percent of the company's total revenue of NT$137.49 billion in the first nine months.

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