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Telecoms firms set for new 4G race in '14

TAIPEI--The bidding war for fourth generation (4G) telecommunication service licenses might have ended in late 2013, but the six bidders in the 4G spectrum race are gearing up for a new race in 2014 to lure 4G users and achieve mobile Internet growth.

The auction for the 4G spectrum in Taiwan began Sept. 3 and came to an end on Oct. 30 after 392 rounds of bidding. The bids by the six companies vying for licenses totaled NT$118.65 billion (US$3.97 billion), 3.3 times the floor price set by the government.

Chunghwa Telecom picked up 35 megahertz (MHz) of bandwidth, more than any of the other five participants, winning three frequency blocks with bids totaling NT$39.08 billion.

Sources said Chunghwa Telecom is expected to launch 4G service in the second half of this year and set the pace for the other telecom operators.

Chuanghwa Telecom has estimated the number of 4G users in its first batch of subscribers this year at 300,000.

Taiwan Mobile Co., which acquired 30 MHz of bandwidth in the 4G auction, will initially target the six municipalities in Taiwan — Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung — to set up mobile stations, and is expected to lure between 400,000 and 500,000 4G users this year.

When Far EasTone Telecommunications Co. is taken into account, the total number of 4G users this year is expected to reach 1 million.

In addition, 2014 is also the year for the telecom operators to promote upgrades from 2G subscription to 3G.

Chunghwa Telecom hopes to upgrade 1.2 million 2G subscribers to 3G, which means it will have only around 1.6 million 2G users by the end of 2014.

The company is also expecting its mobile Internet subscribers to reach 5 million this year, while Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone Telecommunications are aiming for 4 million each.

Combined with subscribers of the country's three other telecom operators — Asia Pacific Telecom Co., Ambit Microsystems Corp., and Vibo Telecom Inc. — the total number of mobile Internet users in Taiwan is expected to increase to at least 14 million this year.

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