Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Chunghwa Telecom seeks partners for satellite deal

ALTERNATIVE ROUTE Tuesday's earthquakes have prompted the nation's leading telco to look to the skies for ways of avoiding disruption in the event of disasters


Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), Taiwan's biggest telecom operator, is seeking partners to launch a second satellite for NT$3 billion (US$92 million) as part of measures to counteract telecom service disruption or congestion caused by ruptured undersea cables resulting from natural disasters.

Chunghwa now jointly owns a satellite with Singapore Telecom, which is helping the phone company ease congestion and partly recover from disruption in telecom services after its submarine cables were damaged during strong earthquakes on Tuesday.

"We are exploring different approaches to launch our second satellite via forming joint ventures or renting bandwidth. We will make a final decision next year," Chunghwa Telecom chairman Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) told reporters yesterday.

Extending cooperation with Singapore Telecom, Southeast Asia's largest phone company, to launch the second satellite would be one of the options explored, Hochen said.

In that event, Chunghwa Telecom would have to spend NT$3 billion on the new satellite, he added.

Hochen said Chunghwa expected phone services to the worst-hit Southeast Asian nations to be fully restored today after recovering half of the connection yesterday.

To minimize damage from natural disasters, Chunghwa would also consider building undersea cables under the Indian Ocean with interested companies, he said.

Earlier this month, Chunghwa signed an agreement with five telecom operators, including Verizon Business of the US and China Telecommunications Corp (中國電信) of China, to construct a new US$500 million undersea fiber optical cable across the Pacific Ocean.

"The new undersea cable will give a much-needed boost to the fast-growing traffic," Chunghwa Telecom vice general manager Lin Jen-hung (林仁紅) said.

Chunghwa Telecom would spend NT$2.6 billion on the new cable, which would have 1,000 times the capacity of existing ones, Lin said.

Construction is scheduled to begin next month and to be completed in September 2008.

Asian phone operators including China Network Communications Group Corp (中國網絡通信) of China and PCCW Ltd (電訊盈科) of Hong Kong have recovered most of their voice services, and Web access is being restored three days after the earthquakes.

In South Korea, Hong Seong-yong, an official at the communications ministry, said: "Recovery work is moving ahead quickly, with nearly all financial institutions, including foreign banks, back to normal overnight."

Japan's Softbank Corp said that 83 percent of its affected 152 corporate lines had been recovered by yesterday.

PCCW, Hong Kong's largest fixed-line operator, said that it was observing continual improvement in Internet access through data re-routing and the acquisition of alternative sources of bandwidth.

"We are expecting substantial improvement of the service over the next 24 hours," it said in a statement.

Singapore Telecom reported its Blackberry service was fully restored by noon local time.

The company is diverting Internet traffic to the US through Europe and Australia as well as by using satellite and landlines, spokeswoman Andrienne Tho said.

But customers in the Philippines have been asked to play their part, too -- by limiting overseas calls to family and friends over the New Year.

Connections remained slow in Malaysia and Thailand, where communications authority CAT Telecom said capacity had only been restored to 50 percent.

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