Commission mulls early switching from 2G to 4G

NEW GENERATION::If the commission allows operators to switch to 4G, consumers could benefit because the big telecoms firms would be pushed to improve infrastructure

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 01, 2012 - Page 4

The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said at it is considering allowing 2G telecommunications service operators to begin switching to fourth-generation service in 2014, a move that many consider could make the fourth-generation service available earlier than expected.

Currently, the nation’s 2G service uses the 900 megahertz (MHz) and 1,800MHz radio bands. Licenses for 2G service are scheduled to expire at the end of this year or next year. However, the government decided to allow 2G service operators to continue their operations until 2017, because the nation still has about 6.3 million 2G service users.

While the International Telecommunications Union recognizes both Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access and Long Term-Evolution (LTE) technologies as 4G technology, the government chose the former instead of the latter — which is used by more countries — and so was blamed by some for Taiwan falling behind South Korea and other countries in 4G service development.

Earlier this year, the Executive Yuan decided to release 700MHz, 900MHz and 1,800MHz radio bands to be auctioned for 4G service licenses next year.

NCC spokesperson Wei Shyue-win (魏學文) said the commission is scheduled to complete the stipulation of rules governing the management of the wireless broadband operation by July next year. He said that based on the rules, the government would not issue separate licenses for 2G, 3G or 4G services in the future. Instead, the telecoms carriers would receive a technology-neutral license, through which telecoms carriers could use the radio bands they acquire to offer any telecoms service they want.

The rules are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

“With 2G licenses, telecoms carriers can only offer 2G service,” Wei said. “If they switch early from a 2G license to a technology-neutral license, they can use radio bands to offer 2G, 3G or 4G service. They would have more flexibility in radio band usage.”

Wei said consumers can benefit from the switch as well, because part of the 2G radio bands can be used to enhance the speed of mobile Internet service.

Regarding the switch, Wei said 2G operators must first obtain permission to continue offering a 2G service until 2017. They can then bid for the radio bands next year and may acquire the same radio bands they used for 2G service. Though the radio bands are reserved for 2G service use until 2017, the operators could use their newly obtained technology-neutral license to use the radio bands for 4G service instead. Many considered the proposal would encourage the three telecoms giants — Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far Eastone Telecommunications — to speed up the construction of 4G service infrastructure, which would in turn benefit the consumer.

Wei said the NCC’s only concern was over whether the bid should be conducted in two phases or one, which has yet to be determined.

“If bidders bid for the number of radio bands first and choose the locations on the radio spectrum second, some may be dissatisfied if they did not get the locations they want,” he said. “If there is only one showdown, then the locations on the spectrum that operators obtain are fixed. Then highest bidders take the best spot.”

Wei added the NCC has yet to decide if they would allow the telecom carriers to swap the radio bands among themselves.