The National Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday said that it is giving telecom carriers discounts ranging between 5 and 15 percent on the use of radio frequencies to encourage them to increase coverage in some of the nation’s remote areas, expressing the hope that the incentive will help minimize the digital gap between rural and urban areas.
Although mobile coverage rates by different telecom operators vary between 93.2 and 99 percent on average, the companies focus on building communications infrastructure in densely populated areas, resulting in coverage rates in remote parts of the nation of just about 70 to 80 percent, the commission said in a statement.
The commission said that it examined policies implemented in other nations and decided that the values of different frequency bands should vary.
In addition, telecom carriers should be given incentives to encourage the construction of mobile communication networks in the nation’s economically disadvantaged areas, it said.
The commission said it changed the way that telecom operators are charged for using frequency bands, giving them discounts if they use the frequency bands to enhance mobile coverage rates in 84 remote villages.
The commission divided the frequency bands into three — below 1 gigahertz (GHz), between 1GHz and 2.2GHz and above 2.2GHz — and assigned them weighted indices of 1, 0.9 and 0.8 respectively.
“It is the commission’s position that the values for low-frequency and high-frequency bands should be different,” commission specialist Tseng Wen-fang (曾文方) said.
“Telecom carriers often use low-frequency bands to serve subscribers in remote areas, because the attributes of those bands allow carriers to build fewer base stations, which helps lower their operational costs. The price difference would encourage telecom carriers to step up network construction in remote areas using high-frequency bands as well, and residents would have access to a wider bandwidth,” she said.
Commission spokesperson Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said that Chunghwa Telecom and Far EasTone Telecommunications are likely to increase coverage rates in remote areas to 90 percent by the end of this year.
Wong also said that about NT$200 million (US$6.25 million) would be allocated this year to build power facilities to ensure that base stations in disaster-prone areas continue to function in the event of natural disasters.
The funds are to be jointly provided by the government and telecom carriers, with each contributing NT$100 million.
In other news, the commission is to hold three more public hearings over the acquisitions of media outlets.
A hearing on Morgan Stanley’s bid to acquire multiple-system operator China Network Systems is to be held on Feb. 10.
Hearings on Asia-Pacific Telecom Co’s purchase of Taiwan Broadband Communications and Taiwan Optical Platform Co’s bid to acquire Eastern TV are to be held on Friday next week and Jan. 23 respectively.
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