Far EasTone Telecommunications plans to roll out its WiMax service in Taiwan over the next one to two years and will seek partners to cover the north of the island.
Taiwan awarded WiMax licenses to six companies last week, three each for the north and south of Taiwan. The recent license auction, along with government plans to boost WiMax through research and technology initiatives, is part of the island's M-Taiwan, or Mobile Taiwan, initiative to ensure broadband wireless Internet access in 10 cities throughout Taiwan within the next few years, using a combination of wireless LAN technology, WiMax, and mobile phone networks.
Far EasTone won a license to build a WiMax network in southern Taiwan. It was the only one of the island's major phone service providers to win one of the licenses, edging out its mobile phone service competitors, Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., the biggest phone company in Taiwan, and Taiwan Mobile Co.
"I think our advantage is that we already have a lot of new technologies and new services in place," said Alison Kao, a spokeswoman for Far EasTone. One example is the company's purchase of Q-ware Communications, which is already an integral part of M-Taiwan. The company offers its Wifly wireless-LAN Internet service throughout Taipei, one of two companies that put Taipei among the first cities in the world to offer wireless broadband coverage to all citizens.
Far EasTone also offers several service wireless Internet packages for users, which include access via home routers, Q-ware's Wi-Fi stations, and on its mobile phone network via HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access). The company launched HSDPA services last October, aiming for laptop PC users with HSDPA data cards. Users in Taipei like HSDPA because they can access the Internet from anywhere in the city, and don't have to roam around looking for Wi-Fi hotspots.
By the end of this year, Far EasTone plans to equip all of its 3G (third generation) call sites with HSDPA. Far EasTone's HSDPA service allows 3.6 MBps (megabytes per second) data transmission speeds, meaning a one-minute music video should take about 22 seconds to download.
That means that by the time its WiMax network is up and running, Far EasTone will already have island-wide wireless Internet coverage via HSDPA, and its Q-ware subsidiary will have expanded its Wi-Fi coverage in northern Taiwan. The company plans to discuss a partnership with one of the companies that won a license to offer WiMax in northern Taiwan, but it could also use its HSDPA network and Q-ware services to cover the north.
Thirteen companies applied for a license to build a WiMax high-speed wireless Internet network in Taiwan. The three winners of southern Taiwan licenses were Far EasTone, Vastar Cable TV System, and Tatung. For the north, the winners were Global On, First International Telecom, and a joint venture between Tecom Co. and 3G network operator VIBO Telecom.
The agency responsible for the WiMax auction, the National Communications Commission, plans to offer at least one more license in 2009 that will allow the holder to offer wireless broadband across all of Taiwan. The winners of the six north-south licenses will be able to operate their networks for six years.
WiMax base stations can send broadband Internet signals to far greater distances than the Wi-Fi technology used to deliver wireless Internet access in coffee shops and airports. Although estimates vary on how far WiMax signals can go, in a densely populated place such as Taiwan, the distance should be between 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) and 4 km.