Wed, Nov 28, 2012 - Page 13 News List

Vibo mulling possible bid for 4G license

THINKING BIG:The telecoms operator also plans to boost mobile Internet user numbers from 27 percent to 70 percent of its total of 1.8 million subscribers

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Local telecoms operator Vibo Telecoms Inc (威寶電信) yesterday said it is studying the possibility of bidding for a fourth-generation (4G) license. It also called on the telecoms regulator to reserve a license for smaller phone companies in the auction, scheduled for next year, to safeguard fair competition.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) said on Monday that it planned to auction the 270 megahertz spectrum at the end of next year, for which the regulator is expected to issue four to eight licenses. That would pave the way for auction winners to provide 4G services in 2014 at the earliest.

Bidders are required to offer at least 15MHz, higher than the 5MHz expected by some telecoms companies and considered by telecoms industry analysts as a rule in favor of existing big telecoms companies, which have sufficient cash flow to win spectrum slots. Bidders’ purchases will be capped at 35MHz, according to the NCC.

“The regulatory environment is going backwards,” Vibo president George Chou (周鐘麒) told reporters during the company’s seventh anniversary luncheon. “The [new] regulations provide even greater protection for Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信).”

“As long as the government aims to boost competition, it should give smaller players a better position,” Chou said, adding that the 3G auction in 2002 proved a failure in terms of government efforts to facilitate competition.

The nation’s big three telecoms companies did not lose much of their market share and 3G entrants struggled to survive, he said.

Vibo lost NT$2.12 billion (US$73 million) in the first half of this year.

To ensure sufficient market competition, Chou proposed that the NCC should consider reserving a license for smaller telecoms players.

The NCC is scheduled to hold a meeting with telecoms operators to provide more details on Friday. The regulator is expected to receive NT$30 billion from the bandwidth auction, a lot less than the NT$48.9 billion it received for the five 3G licenses it sold in 2002.

Separately, Chou said Vibo planned to boost mobile Internet user numbers to 70 percent of its total subscribers, up from 27 percent. Vibo has 1.8 million users at present.

To boost mobile Internet use, Vibo began offering a new service package in September, which carries a minimum monthly fee of NT$188 and a 1 gigabyte monthly data allowance. Subscribers have to sign a 30-month service contract, but receive a free smartphone made by Foxconn International Holdings (富士康控股).

Vibo raised its capital spending to about NT$4 billion this year, from the NT$3 billion forecast previously, Chou said.

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