Thu, Feb 08, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Cellphone accounts hit 18 million

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

If it seems like baby carriages in Taiwan ring instead of rattle, they probably do. Nationwide mobile phone subscriptions hit 18 million yesterday, just short of one phone number for every man, woman and child in the country.

With a legal adult population of only 15 million -- those over 20 years of age -- the figure is one of the highest in the world.

The local mobile telecom market has reached an amazing 82 percent subscriber penetration rate, according to figures collected from local telecom companies.

One industry watcher said that while subscriptions are high, the figures do not accurately reflect the exact number of users.

"We have entered a new era ... with over 55 percent population penetration," Joseph O'Konek, president of Far EasTone (遠傳電信), said yesterday, pointing out that the high penetration rate does not mean everyone in Taiwan has a mobile phone.

Some users have two or more phone numbers, and some are actually in the hands of teenagers and school children whose parents want to keep in touch throughout the day.

The high rate of users is bringing home cash to local mobile phone service providers. Last year, Taiwan's six mobile phone companies reported combined revenue of approximately NT$169.9 billion (US$5.3 billion), with projections for market growth of 10 percent this year to reach NT$187.7 billion (US$5.86 billion).

With most of the population already holding a mobile handset, turning a profit by selling more subscriptions won't be easy. O'Konek expects mobile phone companies to focus more on providing new services to customers in order to increase usage time, rather than profit from gaining more subscribers.

The coming of GPRS (general packet radio service) "second generation" mobile Internet service should help companies do just that.

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