The move to a fourth-generation (4G) service would give consumers more mobile phone service plans to choose from, Minister Without Portfolio Simon Chang (張善政) said yesterday.
Chang used to be chief operating officer for Google’s Asia-Pacific Infrastructure. He is now supervising the nation’s telecommunications and technology policies, and his statements are often seen as indicators of the direction that the Cabinet may take in the future.
Chang yesterday told a 4G service forum hosted by Yuan Ze University that it would be up to the individual telecoms whether mobile phone owners would continue paying a fixed monthly fee to be able to enjoy unlimited Internet access when they switch from a third-generation (3G) to a 4G service.
“When the government issued the 3G licenses, nobody could foresee the rapid growth of 3G users and the increasing popularity of smartphones,” he said.
“The entry of newcomers into the 4G service market will bring innovation to the business. The business models that dominate the 3G market might change, which means the current telecoms must also change the way they operate,” he said.
Chang said the typical monthly 3G service charge is between NT$400 and NT$1,000, but the monthly charge for a 4G service could be between NT$200 and NT$2,000, with consumers being able to choose from a variety of service options.
Many people have questioned the government’s decision to allow seven companies to bid for 4G licenses because some of them might not be able to survive in a small and competitive market.
However, Chang said using mobile broadband is not the exclusive right of certain telecoms.
“The telecommunications market is open and allows operators to compete freely. The government cannot restrict any new operator from entering,” he said.
Former National Communications Commission spokesperson Lee Ta-sung (李大嵩) also talked about the competition for the 4G market at the forum.
“I think we all can agree that the bidding process was very complicated this time, with qualifiers bidding for three different frequency bands [700MHz, 900MHz and 1,800MHz]. Not only do you have newcomers, but current telecoms as well as those carriers already using the spectrum placed bids. Both current and new telecom service providers have their own bargaining chips for negotiations,” Lee said. “I do not know how many have had pre-bidding negotiations, but I think there would be a lot of negotiating among the carriers after the bidding is over.”
“I have a positive view about the complexity of the bidding process. It will force both old and new players to look at the ecosystem of the market, and reconsider their service values and market niche.”
Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男), professor of electrical engineering at National Taiwan University, said the government needs to give the public a clear vision of how a 4G service can be accessed, because it could make their lives better.
Lin also cited a recent survey that found 50 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with the quality of the 3G service.
Given that 3G carriers have invested so much in the service, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed, he said, adding that both service operators and consumers lose if there is any uncertainty in government policy.
“The government should not simply focus on how much money the bidding will generate,” he added. “It should consider consumers’ viewpoints and how best to use the valuable frequency spectrums.”