The National Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday said it is extremely cautious about designating unused spectrums for 5G service experimentation, preferring to first monitor developments in other Asia-Pacific nations.
The commission was commenting on the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ decision to offer more unused spectrums for telecoms to conduct experiments on 5G service.
Apart from the 800 megahertz (MHz) frequency band — which is to be used for experimental networks for “smart” utility meters to measure water and natural gas consumption, as well as for a public protection and disaster recovery system — the government plans to designate the frequency bands between 3.3 gigahertz (GHz) and 3.8GHz, and between 24.25GHz and 29.5GHz for 5G service developers, as these frequencies are most likely to be used by other advanced nations for the service, the ministry said.
NCC spokesman Weng Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said that while he understands the ministry is preparing the nation for the transition to 5G, the commission is taking an extremely cautious position on the matter.
“Taiwan has a relatively smaller economy and has no say in setting globally accepted technical specifications for a new telecom service. We will have to closely watch how other Asia-Pacific nations use their frequency spectrum. After all, we want our telecoms to buy network facilities that will allow them to access some of the commonly used frequency bands and help them save on network construction costs. This would in turn benefit consumers,” Weng said.
As an example, Weng said the nation in 2014 first released the 700MHz, 900MHz and 1,800MHz frequencies for auction for 4G service providers.
The 1,800MHz frequency attracted the highest bid because the facilities needed to access it was already available for use and purchase, and it had also been used to offer international roaming service.
The commission is also scheduled to launch a third spectrum auction for 4G service at the end of this year, Weng said.
It did not release 800MHz for auction because there has yet to be identical specifications for facilities required to access the frequency, Weng added.
“Telecoms take instructions from the government. We cannot afford to make decisions on this matter at the spur of the moment, or we might cause them to make the wrong investment,” he said.
Asked if telecoms are interested in using any particular frequency band to try to develop 5G, Weng said he thinks they would probably be busy preparing for the auction.
“Telecoms live in the moment, but the government has to look to the future. I do not think they are worried about lacking spectrum at the moment,” he said.
The 4G spectrum auctions in 2014 and 2015 have helped generate revenue totaling NT$146.57 billion (US$4.87 billion at the current exchange rate). Industry experts estimate that the government could raise NT$70 billion in revenue through the third auction this year.
The government has become cautious when choosing the right technology to follow after the hard lesson it learned when developing 4G.
Taiwan bet its stakes on the development of Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) over long-term evolution.
However, the popularity of WiMAX waned worldwide after Intel pulled out of the project.
Many in retrospect have said this was a bad decision and caused the nation to lag behind neighboring countries in launching 4G.
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