Asia-Pacific Telecom (APT) should improve its 4G coverage first if it wants to share Far EasTone Telecommunications’ 5G spectrum and network, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.
Far EasTone secured 80 megahertz (MHz) of bandwidth in the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) frequency band and 400MHz in the 28GHz band in a two-phase auction organized by the commission, which ended on Feb. 21 last year.
APT withdrew from the bidding for bandwidth in the 3.5GHz frequency band and obtained 400MHz in the 28GHz band.
The two telecoms last year formed a strategic partnership through a share swap deal in which APT agreed to contribute NT$9.473 billion (US$333 million at the current exchange rate) to build a 5G network on the 3.5GHz frequency band with Far EasTone.
The deal would account for about two-ninths of the total network construction costs, in exchange for the right to access two-ninths of the network’s capacity for 20 years.
The commission yesterday began reviewing the application for the partnership.
If the application is approved, it would be the first time in Taiwan that two telecoms offer services using the same spectrum and network.
Far EasTone president Chee Ching (井琪) and APT president Huang Nan-ren (黃南仁) yesterday attended weekly commissioners’ meeting to answer questions, NCC Vice Chairman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said.
In her presentation, Ching addressed issues related to personal data protection, fair competition, frequency spectrum use, network construction and information security, he said.
However, the commission decided to resume deliberations after the two telecoms submitted additional information requested by the commissioners, Wong said.
“We are cautiously optimistic about the partnership, but we want the two carriers to offer more information on how each of them can manage the network independently, maintain 5G service quality, raise the service coverage rate and ensure full disclosure of information,” he said.
The commissioners are particularly concerned about APT’s 4G service coverage rate, which is significantly lower than that of other carriers, Wong said.
A large number of telecoms worldwide are adopting a “non-standalone” model in providing 5G services, meaning that part of the service would still be offered via 4G cell stations, Wong said.
As the nation’s five carriers have different 4G coverage rates, the quality of 5G service would vary depending on the 4G coverage rates of their carriers, he said.
“From our perspective, if they want to share the use of the spectrum and network, subscribers in both companies must be treated equally. They should experience the same download and upload speed when they access the 5G services, for example,” Wong said, adding that APT should fully disclose service information to consumers, such as its 4G coverage rate.
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