Taiwan has had an impressive start after launching 5G services in July last year. The nation’s telecoms had accumulated more than 1 million subscribers as of the end of November, outpacing expectations.
With an average data transfer rate of 247.7 megabits per second (Mbps), Taiwan ranked third in offering ultra-high-speed 5G data transmission among 15 countries surveyed by OpenSignal, following only Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Taiwan’s 5G data transmission speed is almost 7.2 times as fast as than 4G’s 34.5Mbps, the London-based research company said in a report last month.
However, the speedy migration to 5G technology has raised doubts among Taiwanese mobile subscribers. Those who are keeping their 4G plans say that the high-speed data transmission of 5G networks might come at the expense of their interests. Meanwhile, a growing number of subscribers are filing complaints with the National Communications Commission over poor Internet connections since the commercialization of 5G services.
Some have even accused telecoms of intentionally reducing 4G data transmission speeds to coax their subscribers into upgrading to 5G plans, citing intense competition and higher tariffs for 5G services.
Telecoms have denied the accusations.
Chunghwa Telecom has said that one reason could be that signals from users’ devices on its network are saturating the bandwidth.
The COVID-19 pandemic could be another factor, as more people are spending time on their mobile devices for work, study or entertainment.
Some suspect that 5G subscribers are occupying more bandwidth, as telecoms have installed non-standalone base stations that transmit 4G and 5G signals.
It sounds reasonable, and similar incidents happened in other countries during the early phase of their 5G deployment. South Korea, which in 2018 became the first country to offer 5G services, faces similar problems even now. Mobile users there last year experienced slower 4G data transmission speeds for the first time since the technology was launched.
Taiwanese telecoms have unveiled ambitious deployment plans to boost 5G coverage and availability this year. Far EasTone Telecommunications plans to double its number of 5G base stations to 8,000 from 4,000 last year, while Chughwa Telecom plans to expand its 5G base stations to 10,000 from 4,200.
However, the underlying problem is that telecoms should not only satisfy rapidly growing demand for 5G services, but also improve 4G performance.
Telecoms should install more standalone base stations to deal with rising demand for bandwidth during their next phase of 5G development, as such stations allow much faster data transmission and higher capacity.
Currently, 5G services are offered on non-standalone networks. Installing non-standalone base stations is a suitable way to swiftly deploy 5G networks and to increase availability in the initial phase of 5G development.
It is time for telecoms to take a different approach to satisfy voracious demand for high-speed and low-latency 5G networks, as the nation’s 5G subscribers could triple this year.
The commission should closely oversee 5G infrastructure construction and make sure that the interests of both 4G and 5G subscribers are protected.
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