According to the Taiwan Economic News, telecoms regulator the National Communications Commission (NCC) plans to issue six Long Term Evolution (LTE) licences by 2013, two years ahead of its original schedule. The watchdog originally mooted July 2015 as a 4G start date, following the refarming of spectrum assets currently attached to existing 2G cellular concessions. It is believed that the government has brought forward its plans in an effort to catch up with the development of regional neighbour South Korea, which initiated commercial LTE services in July 2011. Frequencies expected to go under the hammer include spectrum in the 700MHz band, which is currently utilised for military training exercises; between ten and 15 ‘idle’ blocks of spectrum in the 2.6GHz band; and additional refarmed cellular frequencies in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands.
At this stage it is unclear how the six licences will be distributed; Taiwan is home to five cellular operators – Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile, Far EasTone (FET), Asia Pacific Telecom (APT) and Vibo Telecom – and one Personal Handyphone Service (PHS) licensee, Fitel, which occupies nominal sixth place in the market. However, in June 2010, in an unexpected nod towards the respective operator’s LTE ambitions, the NCC took the step of addressing rumours that some of the country’s WiMAX operators intended to convert to LTE technology. NCC spokesperson Ta-Sung Lee indicated that four of the broadband operators granted licences in July 2007 – Global Mobile, Tatung, FET and VMAX – had indeed been awarded technology-neutral licences, and the quartet are permitted to apply to alter their operational plans in order to adopt different mobile technologies, including LTE.