Taiwan 4G licensing bids to double, start at nearly US$1.2b

Kathryn Chiu in Taipei/The China Post

Taipei (The China Post/ANN) - Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday unveiled its 4G licensing plan with a starting bid of NT$35.9 billion (US$1.20 billion), more than twice as much as the 3G licensing starting bid.

The spectrum sale will get underway in September.

Taiwan's major telecom carriers, including Chunghwa telecom (CHT), have expressed strong interest in the bid.

The NCC has revealed that it began accepting applications for 4G concessions yesterday, with the submission period ending on July 1.

The regulator has confirmed that it will examine the applications in August with a view to announcing a list of would-be bidders who have qualified to participate in the sale process.

The NCC will hold conferences to outline the procedures of the sale itself, while an auction rehearsal - at which the required procedure will be explained to bidders - is expected to take place in late August. The spectrum sale itself will open in September.

The NCC said the final result will be released at the end of November and the bid bond must be in place by the end of this year.

Minister without Portfolio Simon Chang once said that 4G operating licenses may be issued at a lower cost to carriers with the idea of supporting Taiwan's creative industries. The starting bid for the 4G auction, however, will reach NT$35.9 billion for about five licenses - higher than the NT$15.3 billion 3G licensing auction in February, 2002.

Taiwanese operators earlier called on the government to ensure that the pricing for 4G wireless concessions were reasonable. The NCC is poised to release three frequency ranges including 700MHz, 900MHz and 1800MHz, with about five licenses. Judging from domestic GDP fluctuations and the CPI index, the base prices for different ranges vary, with the 700MHZ range the highest, with an average selling price for each MHz at NT$230 million.

Taiwan's major telecom carriers, such as CHT, Far EasTone and Asia Pacific, have expressed their interest to bid for a 4G license. Far EasTone's chief executive yesterday said that the telecom won't ally with other partners but will make the bid independently. WiMax wireless service operators G1 and VeeTime are also rumored to be interested in the bid.

Issues regarding the timeframe for actually allocating the 4G spectrum remain, with it understood that those companies that do acquire a concession could be forced to wait until 2017 to begin construction on the network, when Taiwan's existing 2G licenses expire.

US$1 = NT$30