Taiwan has joined the Asian 5G rush, bringing forward its spectrum auction to the end of the year to keep pace with its neighbors.
The National Communications Commission (NCC) has cut short the industry consultation and application periods by a month in order to hold the auction by year-end.
The accelerated timetable means the first commercial services could be launched as early as the second half of the next year.
This puts Taiwan in the same timeframe as Hong Kong, which will hold an auction in October, and Singapore, which is expected to issue a call for proposals (CFP) by the end of the year.
At the front of the regional (and global) race is South Korea, where operators have clocked up 2 million 5G subs since April, followed by China, where China Mobile says it will begin service in Q4.
Japan is due to start in time for the Tokyo Olympics next July, while Australian operators say they will be ready to debut in March when spectrum becomes fully available.
The Executive Yuan, Taiwan's cabinet, approved a four-year action plan in July, setting aside NT$20.5 billion (US$648 million) for value-added services and vertical apps that "help create an environment suitable for 5G innovation and development."
It is planning to sell off a generous 2790MHz of bandwidth, comprising 270MHz in the 3.5GHz band, 2500MHz of 28GHz and 20MHz of 1800MHz.
Bidders will be limited to acquiring 100MHz of 3.5GHz spectrum, while the 28GHz band will be capped at 800MHz. Each of these will come with a 20-year license, while the rest of the spectrum is for ten years only.
Taiwan Mobile CTO Tom Koh said he was happy to see the 100MHz cap but thought it was likely that in the end slices as small as 20MHz and 10MHz would be sold. However, the NCC rejected his suggestion for minimum spectrum holding of 60MHz.
One feature of Taiwan is that there has been no agonizing over the role of Huawei. The Chinese vendor has never supplied any kit to Taiwan operators and that is not going to change for 5G.
All five operators have indicated they will bid for 5G licenses.
The three biggest, Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and FarEasTone, have begun prepping for 5G by announcing industry alliances.
Chunghwa has hooked up with national research institute ITRI and vendors D-Link and Askey; Taiwan Mobile with Fujitsu, Asus, HTC and Qanta; FarEasTone with local vendors Sercomm and Gemteks.
The smallest player, Asia-Pacific Telecom -- whose biggest shareholder is Foxconn parent Hon Hai -- is strengthening its balance sheet ahead of the auction with a NT$15 billion ($478 million) private placement.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading