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September 23, 2017

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Next 4G licensing auction to be held this year

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In a press event yesterday the government announced its intent to hold an upcoming operating license auction for a 190MHz portion of the fourth-generation (4G) 2,600Mhz frequency band before the end of this year, with industry experts expecting competing bids to reach NT$30 billion.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology (科技部) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (交通部), the upcoming auction will release two 70 MHz Frequency-Division Duplex (FDD) blocks compatible with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) at above and below the 2,600MHz band, along with a 50MHz Time-Division Duplex (TDD) block, which is compatible with the 4G Time-Division Long-Term Evolution (TD-LTE) 4G technology. China Mobile (中國移動), the world's largest mobile operator, is an early proponent of TD-LTE.

Industry experts stated that the release of two new operating licenses would be the ideal outcome for the upcoming auction, but expect winning bidders to walk away with three to four licenses as bidding concludes and reaches NT$30 billion.

The upcoming auction represents the first release of the TDD band by Taiwanese regulators in over a decade.

Industry experts remarked that the National Communication Commission may set the minimum bidding unit at 15MHz to 20MHz, while limiting the maximum amount of blocks a bidder may acquire — a move designed to prevent a repeat of 4G's initial operating license auction that left winning bidders holding scattered bandwidth portions across the spectrum. Among the blocks up for auction, the 40MHz portion situated from 2,500Mhz to 2,540MHz are expected to be the most coveted, and see the most heated bidding, industry experts said.

The decision by the government to auction off additional bandwidth may be driven by the dire need to pad the national treasury, said industry experts. Reports indicate that in addition to the 2,600MHz spectrum, idle frequency bands at around 1,900MHz and 2,100MHz are expected go up for auction in the near future.

According to reports, industry mainstays Chunghwa Telecom (中華電), Taiwan Mobile (台灣大), Far EasTone (遠傳), Taiwan Star (台灣之星) and Asia Pacific (亞太) are expected to take part in contending for the FDD portions in a bid to improve their respective 4G coverage. Meanwhile, current WiMAX operators such as Global Mobile (全國一動) and VeeTime (威達雲端) are expected to set their sights on the TDD portion of the auction, while Hon Hai's Ambit Microsystems Co. (國碁) has remained mum on their intended goals in the upcoming bidding.

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