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Thu, Mar 28, 2002 - Page 18 News List

ADSL Web stunted by high prices

OVERPRICED Taiwanese currently pay up to double what their counterparts in Korea and Hong Kong pay for high-speed internet services, no wonder discounts are being mulled

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Price is the most critical factor influencing Taiwan's high-speed Internet access or ADSL (asymmetrical digital signal line) penetration rate, an academic said yesterday.

"As long as the service charges become more affordable and desirable, users will take ADSL as their first choice when they get online," said Tsai Zse-hong (蔡志宏), a telecom engineering professor at National Taiwan University.

Compared with Hong Kong and South Korea, Taiwan's ADSL service charges can be as much as double. In Taiwan, every ADSL subscriber has to pay about NT$1,000 in monthly fees on average to get connected.

"This has become a hurdle in pushing ADSL services into more households around the nation," he stressed.

According to a Consumers Foundations survey released in January, over 70 percent of ADSL users in Taiwan complained that the service charge is too expensive.

Another market watcher agreed with Tsai, saying that an attractive price will help boost the market.

"If the ADSL service charge can be lowered to dial-up fees or below NT$4,00 per month, the number of ADSL users in Taiwan will definitely surpass 2 million by year end," said Jack Hsu (徐瑞宏), a telecom analyst at Market Intelligence Center (市場情報中心).

According to Hsu, the current number of ADSL users in Taiwan is about 1.1 million, double from the same period last year, with more than 90 percent of that number being served by the state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信).

New fixed-line companies such as Sparq (速博電信), Taiwan Fixed Network Corp (台灣固網) and Eastern Broadband Telecommunications Co (東森寬頻) began to offer ADSL services last year and have so far grabbed less than 10 percent of the market in total.

This year Chunghwa targets to attract up to 2 million subscribers by year-end, and plans to slash price.

"We decided to launch a big-scale promotion in April, and we are trying to attract customers with special offers," said Chen Yi-ching (陳義清), an official at Chunghwa.

Chen refused to elaborate on the discount plan, saying it needs further approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. According to a local media report yesterday, Chunghwa will cut its ADSL monthly fee to NT$800, 30 percent down from its current charge.

In addition to price cuts, content is another important attraction for subscribers, National Taiwan University's Tsai said. "Companies have to offer more content that can be accessed via high-speed Internet connection only."

These content services include video-on-demand, online games and interactive online learning. Video transmissions and multimedia -- interactive data -- also require more bandwidth, and thus only high-speed Internet connections can accommodate it.

Chunghwa has designated this year as its "broadband content" year, with plans to put an increasing amount of video content online as well as services for accessing pay-per-view motion pictures, music videos or soap operas via their computers, Chen said.

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