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The State of Taiwan's Wireless Telecommunications Industry: Development and Future Prospects

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning! I am honored today to be able to attend this "China-Sweden Economic Cooperation Meeting" sponsored by the Euro-Asia Trade Organization. We wish to welcome distinguished guests from the Euro-Asia Trade Organization, Swedish officials, Ericsson CEO Kurt Hellstrom, and other attendees. I believe that with this meeting and the visit of Mr. Kurt Hellstrom and other guests, relationships between European countries and Taiwan will be mutually beneficial. I myself hope that this relationship will even grow much closer in the future.

We are all aware that in recent years, the wireless telecommunications industry development of European countries has been growing in leaps and bounds. For example, these countries enjoy an important global role in the development of GSM handsets, Bluetooth, and 3G mobile telecommunications systems. Ericsson's achievement in this wireless telecommunications sector is a wonderful example for everyone. Thanks to the contribution of Ericsson and other related manufacturers, the whole world can now enjoy the convenience of wireless telecommunications. Although Taiwan's entry into the wireless telecommunications industry has been a bit late and the strength of majority of wireless telecom technology R&D is still quite a bit behind compared with the world's most important mobile phone makers, I believe that in the future, with the government's strong push for development of the wireless telecommunications sector, with the R&D efforts by private systems vendors and handset makers, and with the cooperation from parts suppliers, this sector will definitely grow rapidly.

The cooperation between the manufacturing sector, government, academe, and research groups will translate to tangible growth in the country's telecommunications industry. In the short span of three years--when the mobile phone industry was deregulated--Taiwan's mobile phone subscribers rocketed from 1.5 million in 1997 to over 15.34 million today (as of the end of August). Penetration rate is also at an impressive 69.1%, making Taiwan one of the most mobile-enabled country in the world. The eventual opening of 3G mobile telecommunications market in 2001 will further fuel subscriber growth.

In terms of product development, a survey done by the Industrial Technology Research Institute Economics and Knowledge Center (ITRI IEK) of Taiwan showed that in 2000, the country's wireless telecommunications' equipment production value is worth NT$32 billion, accounting for 23% of Taiwan's total telecommunications industry and breaking records by posting a 109% growth rate. Currently, Taiwan has managed to achieve a level of product R&D and manufacturing capability comparable to any in the world. This includes honeycomb-type mobile phone, digital wireless phones, wireless domain networks, microwave and satellite communications equipment, encompassing telecommunications, electronics, microwave, and materials domains. Aside from product development, Taiwan has also achieved significant gains in R&D of related wireless telecommunications components. Among these are keypads, PCB, LED, speakers, and battery packs that have achieved international standards. Manufacturers are also stepping up development of other parts such as active components PA, VCO, and flash memory as well as passive components such as R, L, C components and SAW filters. We therefore see that the wireless telecommunications industry has become one of Taiwan's most dynamic industries.

In terms of product development, IEK's survey on the telecommunications industry reveals that the hottest products today are mobile phones. The total value of Taiwan's mobile phone is NT$17.2 billion in 2000. This is a more than quadruple growth, compared with the NT$3.3 billion value in 1999. Such performance has attracted close to 20 manufacturers to start mobile phone production in the island. Currently, Taiwan makers possess GSM and CDMA R&D and manufacturing capabilities. Some of these makers are Acer Telecom and DBTEL who won Motorola's OEM contract in 1999. Arima Communications, in August 2000, linked up with Ericsson. Nokia and Samsung are looking for Taiwanese partners. Aside from GSM, CDMA, and GPRS technologies, Taiwanese makers are also investing on 3G telecommunications research. Aside from government-sponsored organizations such as ITRI's Computer and Communications Research Labs (CCL) and Chungshan Research Institute who have started WCDMA technology development, private sector companies in Taiwan such as Acer Mobile Networks and FIC's 3GO have started R&D work on WCDMA and TD-SCDMA base station equipment.

In the digital wireless phone segment that is worth NT$720 million, Taiwan makers currently produce DECT and SST sets but with the R&D advances in the personal communications systems (PCS), PHS, and PACS systems will translate to abundant gains in the future. We believe that next year, R&D effort on these systems will be a big push for Taiwan's digital wireless telecommunications industry. With regard to satellite telecommunications equipment, Taiwan currently concentrates on GPS products. Related production value can reach NT$7 billion. At the moment, there are already more than ten manufacturers developing related products and applications systems. For Bluetooth technologies, although currently there are no real production value, with the push by the manufacturing, government, academe, and research sectors, definite progress has been made regarding Bluetooth communications software, modules, chipset design, and R&D tools. Next year, we hope that this segment will offer great business growth opportunities.

Investment on R&D and manufacturing of wireless telecommunications components has been quite heavy, led by explosive growth of the mobile phone market. Taiwan is currently the global leader and supplier of PCB, LCD, battery, keypad, memory, and LED components. From 1998 onwards, more than 20 manufacturers have been involved in mobile phone active components R&D and manufacturing, including PA design and fabrication of GaAs wafers. Taiwan has made strides in development of key components for digital wireless telecommunications. Currently, the country is mass- producing DECT baseband chipset modules while DECT radio frequency chipset modules will be developed by early next year. In addition, Taiwan makers have made significant gains in internal chipset design of PACS handsets and base station related systems equipment. It is estimated that by 2001, these products will be selling well.

ITRI's CCL department, in cooperation with Japan's Matsushita (MKE), is developing low temperature co-fired ceramic module (LTCC) technology for use in Bluetooth module manufacturing. The cooperation means that Taiwan will possess a key technology of Bluetooth development. Other organizations developing Bluetooth are the Institute for Information Industry (III), ITRI, and several companies. As of now, close to 900 Taiwanese companies have joined the international Bluetooth SIG that develops Bluetooth-enabled products, single chipsets, connecting interfaces, and interactive testing systems. These areas will be the focus of R&D resources of Taiwanese firms.

The accumulated experience and exceptional performance of Taiwan over the past 10 years in the IC and IT industry have propelled IC OEM and many other Taiwan-made IT products to the top spot in the global market. Taiwan's exceptionally low-cost and high-quality manufacturing techniques have attracted many giant overseas firms to seek out business opportunities with local companies. The advances and pent up strength of Taiwan's IT industry over the years is having a significant impact on the wireless telecommunications industry. All sectors in Taiwan are focused on related developments of the wireless telecommunications industry that has consistently brought the manufacturing, government, academe, and research groups to undertake R&D projects and tie ups. Related companies have fully supported these tie ups, attracting the attention of large overseas vendors. With the cooperation between the government and private companies, the recent developments in Taiwan's IT industry will build up into another telecommunications revolution. In the future, we sincerely believe that the further deregulation of Taiwan's telecommunications industry will help further boost Taiwanese companies' manufacturing techniques and management advantages. The continued grasp and maturation of component products by Taiwanese wireless telecommunications makers will propel production value beyond the NT$200 billion mark in 2005. We believe that the mutually beneficial cooperation between Taiwan and Sweden will allow for more wireless telecommunications technology and product development opportunities.

I wish to thank the Euro-Asia Trade Organization for playing an important part in Taiwan-Sweden industrial technology exchanges. I also believe that through this meeting and with Mr. Hellstrom's visit, trade cooperation between Taiwan and Sweden will rise up one notch. If anyone would need my help or the help of the Industrial Development Bureau, please feel free to get in touch with me. Lastly, I wish success to the outcome of this meeting and good day to everyone. Thank you