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Taiwan Mobile ups 5G investment by 75%

The Taiwan Mobile board last month approved a 75% hike in 5G spending to around NT$14 billion (US$486.8 million), part of a 41% increase in total capex to NT$20.4 billion ($708 million) for this financial year.

Taiwan Mobile CEO Jamie Lin said the company had decided to accelerate its rollout because of the "smoother than expected" debut of 5G three months ago and positive user response, The China Times reported.

He said new 5G subs had increased 20% in August over July, and he believed the expected arrival of the 5G iPhone later this year would drive a wave of 5G adoption. He noted that this year would be the peak year for 5G capex, with investment next year "much lower."

The other key factor would be to catch up with Chunghwa Telecom's aggressive rollout.

Chunghwa Chairman and CEO Chi-Mau Shieh said 5G "is definitely the top priority next year."

The operator expects to reach its target of 10,000 basestations deployed by the end of next year, completing the original five-year plan within three years and achieving coverage of 99% of the population, Taiwan's Economic Daily News reported.

The ramped-up Taiwan rollouts are the latest in a spate of accelerated 5G investments in Asia this year, most for very different reasons.

5G fever in China, Australia

The three China operators decided to double down in early 2020 as part of the "new infrastructure" program driven by the government to stimulate growth and economic recovery.

In Australia, Telstra brought forward 5G spending to support the economy during the pandemic.

In the Philippines, the two big telcos upped their 4G and 5G investment plans after the president threatened to "expropriate" them if they did not improve performance. In the past two weeks both have announced expanded 5G deployments in urban areas.

Meanwhile, it is still too early to get a sense of Taiwan's 5G market progress. The National Communications Commission (NCC) has just issued figures showing Chunghwa has made the biggest gains since the start of 5G, with a net additional 60,135 new users over July and August.

But the NCC data doesn't break out the numbers, so it is hard to get a read on 5G. However, it does reveal Chunghwa's two main rivals both registered a decline in net numbers over the last two months, with FarEasTone down 1,682 customers and Taiwan Mobile 4,609.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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