FarEasTone GSM / GPRS, Taiwan
Following the success of their 2G GSM network FarEasTone Telecommunication Co. (FET) made a decision in early 2003 to upgrade the network via a transient 2.5G system to an integrated GSM-GPRS-WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) system. The contractor chosen for this upgrade was Ericsson, who was responsible for the original 2G GSM / GPRS mobile network infrastructure, which cost $325 million.
In February 2005, FarEasTone and its subsidiary Yaun-Ze Telecommunications consolidated their 3G network development plans by awarding 3G network expansion projects to two vendors, namely Nokia and Ericsson. The contracts are almost identical and will split the work so that Ericsson will supply the network to the Northern regions (Yuan-Ze) and Nokia to the central and southern regions of the country (FarEasTone).
Nokia have not worked with FarEasTone before but Ericsson has a long-standing relationship stretching back to their original 2G network which came into operation in 2002. Nokia will supply WCDMA 3G radio access network equipment and services and also a network service and a management system. The contract will involve installation, commissioning, integration, project management and care services.
2G / 3G NETWORK INTEGRATION FOR FAREASTONE
Since FarEasTone have purchased new 3G terminals and infrastructure from different vendors the company needed a strategy for these to be verified properly before going 'live'. Interoperability between the new 3G terminals and 2G / 3G network infrastructure was vital.
FarEasTone contracted Ericsson to carry out its Multi-Vendor Terminal Verification service. In a scenario where problems occur regularly because of the complexity of new 3G technology and new 3G terminals, Ericsson is able to verify new 3G terminals using their Multi-Vendor Integration (MVI) unit.
Thus far, at least three different vendors' 3G terminals have been verified successfully for capability, performance and robustness within FarEasTone's unique 2G / 3G network. A further two are undergoing tests. Performing verification in parallel with 3G roll-out and 2G network in-life services proved highly demanding and followed weeks of intensive consultancy on how best to structure the testing.
FAREASTONE EXPANSION PLANS
The new contract is part of major expansion plans for FarEasTone, which is considered to be one of the largest and fastest growing mobile communications service providers in Asia. The major expansion is to meet the demands of FarEasTone's rapidly increasing customer base, to expand geographically and to offer new mobile internet services.
In July 2003, after months of rumours, FarEasTone, Taiwan's third largest mobile operator, confirmed its intention to acquire smaller rival KG Telecom (KGT). The company signed a letter of intent to buy 100% of KG in a cash and stock swap deal valued at $959 million (NT$ 32.5 billion); the deal went through in early 2004 and was finally completed in March 2004.
KGT did not have a 3G licence and the takeover by the 3G licence holder FarEasTone was welcomed by NTT DoCoMo, which has a 21.4% stake in KG Telecom. DoCoMo may now be able to offer its 3G experience and service through FarEasTone.
The combined 7.73 million customer base of FarEasTone and KG match those of market leaders Chunghwa Telecom and Taiwan Cellular, greatly improving the duo's position in the highly competitive Taiwan mobile market, which has one of the largest mobile phone penetrations in the world at 110% (September 2003 figure). Chunghwa currently has 7.67 million subscribers, while Taiwan Cellular, which gained the #1 spot when it absorbed TransAsia Telecommunications in 2001, has 8.73 million customers.
FarEasTone and Chunghwa Telecom are both expected to launch 3G services at the end of June 2005, followed by Taiwan Cellular later in Q3.
ERICSSON'S MOBILE POSITIONING SYSTEM (MPS)
The Ericsson mobile positioning system (MPS) which is a server based solution that allows positioning services to be introduced into any GSM network that has Ericsson switching systems. The system will work with any GSM standard radio network and all existing GSM phones.
At the heart of the MPS is the Mobile Location Centre (MLC), a system that allows user applications to access position information for GSM phones. An Application Programming Interface (API) will be available to allow the development of custom applications. The MLC also handles access security and protects subscriber privacy by allowing GSM users to choose whether or not their phones and other devices are tracked. The MPS has been adapted to allow use on the new 3G system.