Thu, Oct 09, 2008 - Page 12 News List

Taiwan Mobile’s BlackBerry service draws customers with productivity

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of people demonstrate Taiwan Mobile Co’s newest 3.5G HDSPA Blackberry Bold smartphone at the product launch yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Taiwan Mobile Co (台灣大哥大), the nation’s second-largest telecom carrier, yesterday said it is working with BlackBerry handset maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) to seek growth among corporate clients despite market saturation.

“BlackBerry handsets have helped boost Taiwan Mobile’s growth. And we will launch more models to cater to the needs of corporate executives,” said George Chou (周鐘麒), chief operating officer of Taiwan Mobile.

However, Taiwan Mobile — the only local telecom company selling BlackBerry handsets — said it has no current plans to introduce RIM’s latest smartphone “Storm,” which is the first BlackBerry model with a touch screen.

Yesterday, RIM said it planned to supply the first batch of the Storm handsets exclusively to Verizon Wireless subscribers in the US and Vodafone Group users in Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand later this fall, putting it in direct competition with Apple Inc’s iPhone series.

Chou said that BlackBerry users in Taiwan produce much higher average revenues per user (ARPU) than others, averaging NT$2,700 per month, more than three times Taiwan Mobile’s average ARPU of NT$800.

Taiwan Mobile expected BlackBerry subscriptions to increase 50 percent within three months after the new model “Bold” becomes available next month.

More than 1,000 companies in Taiwan offer BlackBerry handsets to high-ranking executives, Taiwan Mobile said. Since its launch in 2006, the uptake of BlackBerry handsets has doubled over the past nine months, compared to the previous period, Taiwan Mobile said.

“To our surprise, we found an increased number of small and medium-sized companies using BlackBerry handsets recently to save more resources as the economy slows down,” Chou said.

Individual mobile users pay at least NT$11,500 for a BlackBerry Bold handset and NT$1,958 in monthly charges for at least two years, but corporate users pay NT$6,500 for the handset and NT$2,300 minimum monthly fees for the two-year period.

Norman Lo (勞偉強), vice president of RIM’s Asia-Pacific division, said demand was quite strong and unit sales are expected to grow quarter on quarter in the three-month-period ending Nov. 29.

“We are having trouble keeping up with demand,” Lo said.

In rough times, people may cut back spending for homes and luxuries, but BlackBerry handsets are a must-have, helping companies save costs and enhance productivity, Lo said.

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