While two Chinese operators have just sealed the deal on 5G network sharing, the country on the other side of the Taiwan Strait has finalized arrangements to mandate sharing across the industry.
Successful bidders in the forthcoming 5G auction should be required to share resources with smaller players unable to acquire frequencies, the National Communications Commission (NCC) has announced.
In a revised version of the rules, issued last week following an industry consultation, the NCC has stipulated that 5G operators should share spectrum, networks and construction.
The new 5G spectrum owners will be required to include sharing arrangements in their business plan, it said.
The changes follow some pushback by local operators, which had asked for more flexibility, such as the ability to form sharing arrangements at the basestation level and not just for the entirety of the network.
Sharing is mandated by the new Telecommunications Management Act, but it requires the NCC and the operators to agree on the details.
The big three operators -- Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and FarEasTone -- have welcomed the rule changes, the Economic Times has reported.
But if the mandatory sharing rules were meant to attract new bidders for spectrum, they do not seem to have worked.
The NCC last week also began taking applications for the auction of 3.5GHz and 28GHz spectrum, due to take place in December.
Speaking at an industry 5G forum on Monday, NCC acting chairman Yaw Shyang-Chen revealed he had not received any applications other than from the existing MNOs and thought it unlikely that any new entrants would seek to bid.
One industry view is that the new rules discourage active participation by outsiders or the two smaller players, Asia-Pacific Telecom and Taiwan Star Telecom, because the entry barrier for those without spectrum has been lowered.
At the same time, the large operators are likely to be reformulating their bidding strategies, with the aim of acquiring the maximum 100MHz of spectrum so they are better placed to meet the sharing requirements.
The issue of the network sharing rules means Taiwan is ready to go to auction and meet its accelerated 5G licensing timetable.
The government has issued a 5G action plan to support the industry, including a budget of NT$20 billion ($658 million) to fund new apps and trials.
Yaw said he expected the licensing process would be completed by the end of the year.
— Robert Clark, contributing editor, Light Reading