The government’s next allocation of fourth-generation (4G) wireless frequency bands will depend on how the country’s WiMAX wireless service operators put together their planned merger, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said yesterday.
Teng Tien-lai (鄧添來), director-general of the post and telecommunications department at the ministry, said the government plans to issue a new round of licenses for 700MHz, 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands in December next year.
However, 4G licenses for higher frequency bands that allow faster data speeds, such as the 2.6GHz band that is used by the nation’s WiMAX operators, will not be issued until 2015 or 2016, when the existing WiMAX licenses expire, he said.
“The merger of WiMAX operators will inform our allocation of frequency ranges,” Teng told reporters on the sidelines of the 4G International Forum in Taipei.
If the six WiMAX operators merge into one company, it will be easier for the ministry to plan the allocation of frequency ranges for 4G services, he said.
However, if the merger results in more than two companies it will be more difficult to allocate the bands and some frequency ranges for other 4G standards, such as LTE, he added.
“There is still some time before these WiMAX licenses expire, so we can take note of global development of frequency ranges and then decide on our future direction,” he said.
Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) and long-term evolution (LTE) are both 4G wireless broadband technologies that have been adopted around the world.
For the past few years, the government has been supporting WiMAX 4G technology as part of its efforts to boost Taiwanese products and for the nation to become the world’s largest exporter of WiMAX devices.
Both LTE and WiMAX are 4G mobile broadband technologies that can accommodate high levels of data transmission over mobile phone networks, ushering in a new era of smartphone capability, but WiMAX, which was developed first, has faced years of setbacks as more mobile carriers worldwide have committed to LTE when upgrading their networks.
Taiwan currently has six licensed WiMAX mobile service 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 Time Corp (威達雲端).
The six operators, which acquired licenses in 2007, had attracted only 135,430 subscribers as of July, casting a shadow over the future development of WiMAX wireless technology in Taiwan.
Though LTE is considered globally as the mainstream mobile broadband service, Taiwan does not plan to have commercial LTE operations until 2017.