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5G to start in Taiwan on July 1

5G will debut in Taiwan on July 1, setting off a new round of competition in one of the world's most fiercely contested markets.

Chunghwa Telecom CEO Chi-Mau Sheih confirmed the starting date after receiving the first 5G license from the National Communications Commission (NCC) last week.

Chunghwa has been approved to deploy in the 3.5GHz and 28GHz bands. It says it will install 3,000 basestations by year-end.

FarEasTone, another of the big three, will not be far behind. CEO Chee Ching says she expects the company will obtain its 5G license from the NCC this week. It plans to deploy 2,000 basestations this year.

Taiwan's second-biggest operator by subscriber numbers, Taiwan Mobile, has not yet applied for approval, the official Central News Agency reports. It is expected to launch service later in Q3.

With mobile penetration already well above 100%, the contest between these evenly matched competitors will be keenly fought.

Chunghwa, the state-controlled incumbent, has 11 million subscribers, Taiwan Mobile 7.2 million and FarEasTone 7.1 million.

The three operators outlaid NT$122 billion (US$4.1 billion) in a brutal spectrum auction in February.

But while Chunghwa and FarEasTone acquired 90MHz and 80MHz respectively in the key 3.5GHz band, Taiwan Mobile obtained just 60MHz. It has been speculated it would strike a network-sharing deal with one of the smaller players, Taiwan Star or Asia-Pacific Telecom, but so far none has emerged.

Chunghwa says it is working on smart city projects with the Taipei government, trialing 5G audio and video streaming and intelligent transport services, among others.

FarEasTone's Chee Ching said she expected to launch in six cities and major business districts. She nominated 5G AR/VR services, multi-view 3D apps and cloud gaming as some of the early applications.

Like many other telco execs, she is also eyeing enterprise opportunities, in particular manufacturing, healthcare, retail and government services.

On Monday, FarEasTone, Microsoft and local manufacturer Delta Electronics announced that they will jointly build Taiwan's first 5G smart factory. It will deploy 5G edge computing, Microsoft cloud, autonomous vehicles and other low latency services.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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