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Far EasTone unveils series of phones to push 3G upgrades

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. (遠傳電信), Taiwan's third-largest mobile operator, unveiled on Tuesday four own-branded smartphones priced as low as NT$2,990 (US$99) in its latest attempt to shift 2G customers to its 3G network.

The Smart series phones are assembled by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (鴻海精密) and Chinese handset maker K-Touch, using chipsets supplied by MediaTek Inc. and Broadcom Corp.

The new phones have screen sizes from 4 to 5.5 inches and cost between NT$2,990 and NT$6,990, targeting entry-level users who are expected to shift from 2G to 3G network, said Far EasTone Executive Vice President Maxwell Cheng.

“We're offering products with high performance to cost in order to satisfy various consumer needs,” Cheng told a press conference, projecting that sales of the four new smartphones will exceed 100,000 units in the first half of this year.

Taiwan's top three telecom operators are all trying to encourage more 2G customers to switch to 3G services because their 2G licenses are due to expire in June 2017.

Offering affordable phones with discounts on monthly fees is one of the incentives being used to attract 3G service subscribers, given that most 2G users are price-sensitive.

Cheng said the company is hoping to reduce its 2G customers from 800,000 to 300,000 by the end of the year thanks to the launch of its Smart series phones, and it is also aiming to pick up 500,000 new subscribers to its 4G services this year.

Sub-US$200 Smartphone Market Grows to 42.6-percent Share in 2013

Taking aim at mid-tier and entry-level smartphone users could be a good strategy, as the sub-US$200 smartphone market grew to 42.6 percent of global volume in 2013, or 430 million units, according to data compiled by research company IDC.

Worldwide smartphone marketing campaigns continue to stay focused on flagship devices like the iPhone 5S, Galaxy Note 3, and the HTC One, yet research shows that consumer buying is rapidly shifting toward products with significantly lower price points, IDC said.

Among the 2.2 million smartphones sold by Far EasTone last year, about 10 percent were models carrying the brand name of Arcoa Communication Co., a mobile phone retail chain of Far EasTone, Cheng said.

Far EasTone plans to purchase 2.5 million smartphones in 2014, with its own-branded Smart models expected to account for 10 percent of the overall sales, he said.

Cheng said Far EasTone also has plans to launch its own-branded 4G phones priced at between NT$5,000 and NT$10,000 later this year when its 4G LTE network begins operation.

4G-enabled smartphones are expected to account for over 50 percent of Far EasTone's planned smartphone purchase in 2014, while models supporting Taiwan's new 700 MHz frequency will likely grab a 20 percent or higher share of the total, the executive said.

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 Taiwan manufacturing, service sectors grow in Jan. 
Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. (FET, 遠傳電信) Executive Vice President Maxwell Cheng, center, takes the podium to mark the launch of four Far EasTone brand smartphones in Taipei, yesterday. FET is Taiwan's third largest mobile operator. (CNA)

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