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May 28, 2017

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Regulator OKs upgrade to 4G with same number

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday approved telecoms carriers' plans to offer their subscribers the option of upgrading their phones to the recently launched fourth-generation (4G) mobile broadband network with their current cellular phone numbers.

The regulator announced yesterday that required amendments have been completed to extend phone number portability to Taiwan's mobile phone subscribers, who may upgrade to the 4G network from 3G as soon as Monday.

The NCC specified that the 4G upgrade bill has been submitted to the Executive Yuan, and as soon as on Monday telecoms operators may begin offering 3G-to-4G upgrades to subscribers switching to an alternative carrier. The NCC added, however, that subscribers hoping to initiate 3G-to-4G upgrades at their current telecoms carrier will have to wait until next Wednesday. According to the NCC, the upgrade process must not require more than one business day. Telecoms carriers stated that all service locations will be manned by more personnel in anticipation of the increased volume of applications.

New Entrants to Sector Gear Up for 4G Service

In addition to Chunghwa Telecom (中華電), which took the lead in launching Taiwan's first commercially available 4G service last Thursday, the other members of Taiwan's "big three" operators, Taiwan Mobile (台灣大), and Far EasTone (遠傳), all launched their respective 4G services earlier this week. In addition, the NCC yesterday announced that it has approved 4G charter licenses for the Taiwan Star Cellular Group (台灣之星), a new entry to the telecom sector backed by Ting Hsin International Group (頂新). Taiwan Star stated that despite the lead established by Taiwan's big three operators, its own 4G service is expected to be launched in the third quarter of this year as planned.

Meanwhile, the NCC noted that Taiwan Star's bid to acquire Vibo Telecom Inc. (威寶) has yet to be approved, pending assessment according to the stipulations of the Telecommunications Act (電信法). A swap of shares between Taiwan Star and Vibo is set to take effect on June 15 to pave the way for the acquisition deal. A board of directors election held on Tuesday resulted in the promotion of Ting Hsin Chairman Wei Ying-chiao (魏應交), who ascends to the chairmanship position at Vibo Telecom.

The regulator stated, however, that 4G charter licensing applications by Ambit Microsystems Co. (國碁電子), a subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (鴻海), and Asia Pacific Telecom (亞太) remains pending. Incidentally, Hon Hai is slated to acquire Asia Pacific Telecom through a merger with its subsidiary Ambit, by purchasing a majority 14-percent stake in the carrier.

Lack of Device Compatibility with 700MHz-based 4G Service

Concerns remain for subscribers of Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone, as their 4G services are based on the 700Mhz band as opposed to Chunghwa Telecom's 1800MHz network, a more commonly adopted standard internationally. Currently, Apple's popular iPhone 5S handsets are not compatible with 700MHz-based 4G networks.

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