The nation’s No. 3 telecommunications operator, Far EasTone Telecommunications Co Ltd (遠傳電信), yesterday launched a new rate plan to encourage customers to include more devices into an individual account in an effort to cope with the growing trend of phasing out flat rate plans.
Far EasTone is offering a free SIM card that allows families and individuals to share a data allowance among multiple devices such as tablets and smartphones. It is the first telecoms operator in Taiwan to introduce such a rate plan, which has been adopted by global phone companies such as Verizon Wireless in the US.
“As more and more consumers are connecting to the Internet on multiple mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, doing this in cost and energy-efficient ways is becoming an increasingly pressing issue,” Far EasTone vice president Ben Ho (何永生) told reporters.
The new service plan is the latest effort by local telecoms companies to alleviate customers’ concerns that the cancelation of flat rate plans in the future could cause monthly fees to spike as result of having to pay for extra capacities.
Far EasTone said 90 percent of its 100,000 mobile service consumers who connect to the Internet on mobile phones and tablets on average consume 4 gigabytes of bandwidth capacity a month.
That is lower than the 5 gigabytes of bandwidth capacity per month it offers under the new rate plan. Contracts for the plan start at NT$699 per month, while the rate for students starts at NT$489 and there is a monthly cap of NT$1,500.
Since flat rate plans offer unlimited use of bandwidth capacity, about 15 percent of mobile service clients end up using about 80 percent of the bandwidth capacities, Ho said, causing unreasonable and inefficient capacity allocation.
The company said 70 percent of its 1.8 million mobile service subscribers pay flat monthly rates.
Many telecoms companies worldwide have scrapped flat rate plans. For example, most telecoms companies in Hong Kong stopped offering flat rate plans last year when new fourth-generation (4G) — or Long Term Evolution (LTE) — services were introduced, he said.
Far EasTone is considering not offering flat rate plans for its 4G services, even though the service is not available in Taiwan yet as the nation’s telecommunications regulator has not finalized the timeline and rules for issuing 4G licenses.
The company expects the new rate plan to help boost its mobile service subscribers to about 2 million by the end of the year, an increase of approximately 82 percent from the 1.1 million users it had at the end of last year. It also plans to invest more on network deployment next year than the NT$9 billion (US$310 million) it spent this year in a bid to enhance network quality.
In addition, Ho said the company planned to purchase 1.3 million mobile device units to retain subscribers.
Tablet purchases would grow significantly by about 39 percent to reach as many as 180,000 units next year, compared with this year’s 130,000, including low-cost models from Huawei (華為), Samsung Electronics and probably Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), Ho said.