5G industry news

Taiwan, a 5G warning for UK operators?

  • 2 minute read
  • Published by Dr. Abhaya Sumanasena on 12 May 2018
  • Last modified 17 May 2018
The Taiwanese regulator, the NCC, has highlighted an issue which is increasingly overshadowing many countries’ plans for early 5G deployment: the uncertain business case. UK operators should perhaps take note.

Most operators which expect to be in the first wave of 5G roll-out are focusing on enhancing their existing mobile broadband services, and are building their networks in a traditional way, focusing mainly on the same macro network grid of sites and backhaul, and on sub-6 GHz spectrum. However, CEOs of operators – from BT in the UK to China Mobile – have insisted that, in the second phase of deployment, 5G investment will need to be justified by new services and revenue streams – and these remain uncertain, especially where the Internet of Things is concerned.

The NCC has picked up the theme in its own market, saying that if operators continue to focus only on their consumer mobile broadband use cases, and continue to engage in price wars, this could hinder Taiwan’s hopes of being a ‘5G nation’ at a very early stage.

According to reports in the Taipei Times, the NCC has warned that, if the MNOs just compete to poach one another’s subscribers with faster speeds and lower prices, rather than developing innovative business models, it will be negative for 5G in Taiwan.

The NCC’s comments come in the wake of one of the four MNOs, Chunghwa Telecom, announcing an unlimited 5G mobile voice and data plan for TW$499 ($16.85) per month. This was quickly matched by similar plans from rivals Taiwan Mobile, FarEasTone and APT, pulling down the overall prices in the market in what NCC officials called a “race to the bottom”.

The newspaper’s report added that the NCC told it that it does not believe that Taiwan’s operators have the same growth options as many of their overseas counterparts – such as moving into overseas markets or diversifying into original content – because of their relatively small size and Taiwanese regulatory restrictions.

Meanwhile, another lesson from Asia may end up influencing UK policy on 5G. South Korea is blazing a trail towards a new level of infrastructure sharing, which may be vital to bringing a little certainty to that shaky 5G business case, as you can find out here.