Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Chunghwa reaches deal with Google

HIGH HOPES The telephone company hopes the tie-up will boost the number of customers switching to their high-speed 3G service, but not all analysts are convinced


Taiwan's biggest phone company Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信) yesterday signed an agreement with Internet search giant Google Inc for mobile phone users to search the Web, aiming to speed up lukewarm growth of data-centric third-generation (3G) subscribers.

It makes Chunghwa Telecom the third Asian telecom company to offer the new mobile search facility with Google after Japan's second-biggest mobile operator KDDI Corp and Hong Kong's Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (和記電訊) earlier this year.

"The cooperation will help our mobile customers get acquainted with online access via their handsets, thereby accelerating the migration of 2G customers to the high-speed 3G service," Chunghwa Telecom chairman Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) told a joint press briefing in Taipei.

With the new Google search service, which will be embedded in Chunghwa Telecom's "emome" mobile service platform in the first quarter of next year, Chunghwa Telecom said it aimed to more than triple its 3G users to 1.5 million next year, from around 400,000 subscribers this year.

The Web search tie-up is expected to be the first step for the two companies in an extension of their collaboration.

"We are expecting to collaborate with Google in more areas in the future," Hochen said.

These areas include Web sharing, updating business directories, advertisements and maps, following the establishment of its new yellow pages subsidiary next month, he said.

"In addition to mobile search, we believe Google will cooperate further with Chunghwa Telecom in the future," said Lee Kai-fu (李開復), a vice president of Google, during the press conference.

But the two companies still have no substantial plan to offer tailored wireless devices especially designed for Chunghwa Telecom users to search Web pages.

The Chinese-language Commercial Times reported earlier this week that Google may launch brandname phones made by Taiwan's High Tech Computer Corp (宏達電).

Chunghwa Telecom plans to set up a yellow pages company next month with initial capital of NT$250 million (US$7.68 million), tapping into the niche location-based services.

Location-based services, which include global positioning system (GPS) function and map search, are considered by many companies such as Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc as the next important driving force.

Chunghwa Telecom yesterday said its subscribers would be able to search Web pages from their handsets next month.

Despite Chunghwa Telecom's optimism about the new service, Lu Chia-lin (呂佳霖), a telecom analyst with Yuanta Core Pacific Securities (元大京華證券), said the mobile search service was not attractive enough.

"People are not going to subscribe to the 3G service just so they can surf the Web from a mobile phone," Lu said. "A more pragmatic way to boost the number of 3G users would be cutting the voice rate."

The phone company currently commands 41 percent of Taiwan's mobile telecom market, with 7.77 million 2G subscribers.

Chunghwa Telecom shares dropped 0.66 percent to NT$60 yesterday on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, underperforming the 0.36-percent loss on the main TAIEX index.

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