The government plans to facilitate the import of 5G-capable terminal devices as the nation’s three major telecoms prepare to launch 5G service in the third quarter of this year, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.
The nation’s first 5G spectrum auction, which was completed on Feb. 20, generated total bids of NT$142.2 billion (US$4.7 billion).
The commission last week interviewed the managements of Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone Telecommunications about their business and data security plans for 5G service amid concerns that their plans might be disrupted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The telecoms have not experienced much problems securing base stations and other equipment to build their 5G networks, NCC Chairman Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥) told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee in Taipei.
However, there are concerns about the supply of terminal devices on the consumers’ end, including smartphones and tablet computers.
Apple and other manufactures have their smartphones produced at plants in China, which have not returned to full capacity following lockdowns prompted by the outbreak, Chen said, adding that Taiwanese consumers might not have 5G-capable smartphones when 5G service becomes available.
Equipment that is 5G-capable can be imported only after manufacturers secure certification from the NCC, and the spread of COVID-19 might leave the telecoms without 5G-capable smartphones to sell when they launch 5G service, Chen said.
“If it is necessary and fulfills the relevant regulations, we would offer special assistance so that telecoms can quickly procure 5G mobile phones,” he said.
Lawmakers at the committee asked whether 5G service in its initial stage would only be available to residents in the six special municipalities, given that they account for 70 percent of the nation’s population.
Chen said that the telecoms would in the beginning inevitably focus on the construction of infrastructure in metropolitan areas.
However, the commission would encourage them to accelerate the building of infrastructure in economically disadvantaged areas by offering them incentives, including offering subsidies for the construction of base stations in remote townships and reducing the frequency usage fee, he said.
The subsidies could be funded by the bids generated at the 5G spectrum auction, he added.
Both 4G and 5G services would coexist for some time after the latter launches, Chen said, adding that consumers can choose either service based on their needs.
Lawmakers also questioned whether the nation has sufficient bandwidth to support the provision of distance-learning for students nationwide should the government decide to close schools if the COVID-19 outbreak worsens.
Of the nation’s 86 remote townships, 85 have broadband service transmitted at 1 gigabit per second, Chen said, adding that 753 villages and boroughs have services transmitted at 100 megabits per second or faster.
However, the problem is that there are either not enough computers for students or the computers are outdated, he said, adding that the Ministry of Education is in charge of minimizing the digital gap between urban and rural areas.
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