First International Telecom (FITEL), the sole operator of low-power personal handyphone system (PHS) services in Taiwan, says it hopes to sign up 1.03 million users by the end of 2005. FITEL reported around 794,000 subscribers at the end of last month, up from 770,000 at the start of the year; it aims to pass the 900,000 user barrier by April. According to company president Charlie Wu, FITEL plans to invest TWD1.25 billion in 2005 to expand PHS operating capacity to 1.25 million connections by end-March and 1.5 million by 31 December. In addition the operator is expanding its retail outlets to 50 ‘self-operated’ and 150 franchised stores in 2005. The company has also begun to purchase handsets locally. In late 2004 it launched its J98 model, supplied by domestic company Inventec Appliances. In the past FITEL has relied exclusively on sourcing PHS handsets from abroad, most notably from Sanyo Electric and UTStarcom. Buoyed by the sale of 30,000 J98 handsets, Wu says his company plans to add a further six or seven locally-produced models, four of which will be made by Inventec and the remainder by Wistron NeWeb.
At the end of 2004 FITEL’s stronghold was the northern region of Taiwan where 734,000 of its total subscriber base lived. In the coming year it hopes to expand its presence in the central region from 6,000 to 60,000 users and from 30,000 to 100,000 in the south of the country. It also forecasts a 45.6% rise in revenues from TWD5.15 billion to TWD7.5 billion, and a 325.3% hike in net profits to TWD370 million.