Mobile Taiwan

Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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The government's M-Taiwan (mobile Taiwan) plan to build up wireless broadband technology looks set to push WiMAX to the top of the telecoms agenda in 2007. As the government hopes Taiwan can become a major centre for the development of WiMAX technology, there are some concerns over the way licences for any new mobile technology will be issued.

According to a leading industry group for the technology, "WiMAX is a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to wired broadband like cable and DSL." Currently the most prominent mobile internet technology is referred to as Wi-Fi and in Taipei a network of access points allowing city-wide mobile broadband coverage. WiMAX technology can potentially offer faster speeds and work over longer distances than existing Wi-Fi technologies. There are potential uses in this technology for mobile phone operators especially as convergence of technologies is expected to eventually increase bandwidth demand.

There is some concern from the telecoms industry that the government is not issuing licences for new mobile technologies in a commercially viable way. On January 29, Chairman Su of the National Communications Commission (NCC), spoke at a monthly luncheon organised by the European Chamber of Commerce Taipei (ECCT) to address some the concerns brought up in their white paper on the industry. Some in the industry feel that the government should not promote a single technology that is not yet proven. Sean Gowran, the president of Ericsson Taiwan and co-chairman of the ECCT Telecom Committee, welcomed Su's use of the wording "broadband wireless technology" in his presentation instead of WiMAX as the issue of technology neutrality is important across the telecom industry.

Some in the telecom industry feel there is no current commercial need for WiMAX technology in Taiwan. Three large providers and four smaller ones dominate the mobile market and there have been large investments in 3G technologies. The uptake of existing 3G technology has been slow and many within the industry don't think a major investment in WiMAX infrastructure is necessary at the moment.

The ministry of economic affairs and the government-linked Industrial Technology Research Institute have been encouraging research and development into WiMAX technology. The aim is to get Taiwanese companies involved in the technology from a development stage and take advantage of intellectual property rights. Taiwanese companies are admired for their manufacturing expertise but the government hopes they can also become well known for innovating new technologies and see WiMAX as an opportunity to show this and boast exports.

WiMAX seems to be the focus of the government's M-Taiwan programme and it will have invested NTD37bn ($25.9bn) between 2005 and 2008 to promote and build mobile communication infrastructure in Taiwan. As part of the government's WiMAX acceleration plan, local companies receive funding for research and development for various WiMAX technologies. Foreign companies who want to take part in government-funded projects have to establish partnership arrangements with local companies.

In November 2005, Taiwan signed a deal with Intel to promote WiMAX technology in Taiwan. As part of the deal, Intel will help Taiwan's original design manufacturers (ODM) develop WiMAX technology that is compatible with various different global standards.

There is much debate as to which radio spectrum should be issued by the Taiwanese governments for new wireless broadband technologies. As it stands, there are competing standards and many in the industry feel Taiwan cannot be a WiMAX centre if it operates on a different spectrum to other countries. There are also concerns about the number of licences the NCC will issue and the likelihood that they will initially be issued on a regional basis.

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