Far EasTone Telecommunications Co Ltd, the nation’s No. 3 telecoms operator, on Monday launched its first fourth-generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) smartphone under its own brand at a competitive price, heralding the intensifying 4G battle in summer.
The offering of a mid-tier 4G handset should help clear an obstacle keeping mobile device users from adopting the new technology and help accelerate the uptake of 4G services in Taiwan, where the services have been delayed — in comparison with global peers — because the government was slow in auctioning bandwidth for LTE development after mistakenly betting on WiMAX in the 4G technology dominance race.
At the moment, 4G services are available in 76 countries and regions.
It makes sense for Far EasTone to take such an aggressive move before the high-speed services become available, as the company has repeatedly said that it aims to become the first local telecommunications service provider to offer 4G services, vying for a bigger market share when the industry enters a new era and a new competition.
The nation’s top telecommunications service provider, Chunghwa Telecom Co, pledges to launch 4G services in July, earlier than its original schedule of next quarter. Smaller rival Asia Pacific Telecom Co and market newcomer Taiwan Star Cellular Corp plan to offer their services next quarter.
As each of the nation’s three industry leaders expect to have at least 400,000 active 3G users shift to 4G during the launch, it can be expected that total 4G users could include 2 million people by the end of the year, counting potential subscribers with smaller companies.
Far EasTone said it is working with handset maker Alcatel to produce its Smart 405 model, designed to allow users to transmit data, streamline video and surf the Internet on the company’s 4G LTE network in the 700 megahertz band.
The Smart 405 is the first LTE handset under the “Smart” brand and is priced at NT$6,990, which is comparable to the price of an entry-level 3G smartphone.
Far EasTone said it is also working with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co to launch the second LTE smartphone in its Smart series next month, targeting the mass market as well.
To test the water, Chunghwa Telecom is scheduled to launch new 4G phones and tablets from Sony Mobile, including the popular Xperia series, tomorrow. Chunghwa Telecom is set to obtain exclusive local rights to sell 4G devices from Sony Mobile.
With new, affordable phones in the pipeline from local service providers, the nation’s 4G uptake should accelerate and quickly catch up with global peers.
Telecoms equipment maker Ericsson expects the nation’s downlink throughput will rise rapidly after the commercial launch of 4G services, from an average of 3.5 megabytes per second in the fourth quarter of last year. According to a survey conducted by Ericsson, Taiwan ranked No. 24 in the world’s top 50 smartphone markets in downlink throughput.
The nation will continue to play catch-up as the technology evolves more quickly. It must invest in developing the next generation of wireless telecommunications technology, known as fifth-generation (5G), or it will not only lag behind in technology, but also in economic strength, as wireless broadband investment is considered one of the key driving forces to a nation’s GDP.