The government would need to address the issue of fairness among local telecoms operators if it opted for long-term evolution (LTE) technology to build a national high-speed network, Minister Without Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政) has said.
Chang, who is a former Google Inc executive, told CNA in a recent interview that WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) — the fourth-generation telecommunications technology -currently favored in -Taiwan — was likely to be overtaken by LTE technology.
However, moving away from WiMAX would inevitably raise questions of fairness for those operators who have already invested in WiMAX networks and those interested in obtaining licenses to build LTE networks, he said.
“It involves the length of the concession the government gave to WiMAX operators to use their frequency bands and whether the WiMAX licenses owned by existing operators should be released and transferred to third-party companies if the government wants to shift to LTE,” Chang said. “In terms of technology, it is clear that LTE will become more popular.”
Taiwan currently has six licensed WiMAX operators — Global Mobile Corp (全球一動), VMAX Telecom Co (威邁思), Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信), First International Telecom Corp (大眾電信), Tatung InfoComm Co (大同電信) and Vee Telecom Multimedia Co (威達雲端電訊). However, those companies had accumulated only 133,067 WiMAX subscribers as of December last year, since acquiring their licenses in 2007, according to the National Communications Commission (NCC). Such figures raise questions about the future development of WiMAX wireless technology.
In June last year, Taipei Computer Association chairman J.T. Wang (王振堂) said WiMAX operators should merge to expand their economic scale and maximize available resources. Far EasTone president Yvonne Li (李彬) came out in support of Wang’s proposal a few days later, saying that six firms were too many for the local market. She expressed hope that the government would lower the bar for the mergers of operators.
“I have not yet talked about this issue in depth with the NCC,” Chang said.
“Mergers seem to be unlikely at this stage, but media reports said that the NCC could tacitly agree to mutual ownership of stocks among WiMAX operators, which is what we can do now before the relevant laws are revised,” he added.
One problem facing the industry is that each operator is required to operate a 4G network that has a minimum of 70 percent coverage.
Chang described the 70 percent issue was a “technical problem” related to how the ratio should be calculated, which allowed some room for further discussion.
However, he expressed a personal preference to not lower the bar by revising the law because of concerns about fairness among telecoms carriers.