Telecom operators gearing up to digest iPhone 5 pre-orders

Taipei, Dec. 14 (CNA) Taiwan's top three telecom operators said Friday that they are asking Apple Inc. to increase its Taiwan shipments of the latest iPhone 5, which has seen pre-orders of more than 350,000. Lin Kuo-feng, president of the Mobile Business Group at Chunghwa Telecom Co., said at a news conference to launch the iPhone 5 in Taiwan that his company has received more than 200,000 pre-orders of the larger and lighter iPhone model. The company expects to sell 100,000 units of the iPhone 5 this month and to digest all of its pre-orders before the Lunar New Year holiday starting Feb. 9, 2013, Lin said. Chunghwa Telecom, the country's largest mobile provider, said it has sold more than 1 million units of the iPhone series since the iPhone 3G was launched in 2008. Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., the third-largest telecom operator in Taiwan, plans to sell 100,000 of its 150,000 iPhone 5 pre-orders in December, said Far EasTone President Yvonne Li. Far EasTone is managing to digest all of its iPhone 5 pre-orders before the Lunar New Year, she said, adding the actual sales will depend on Apple's supply. Cliff Lai, co-president of the country's No. 2 carrier Taiwan Mobile Co., declined to disclose his company's pre-order numbers of iPhone 5, but said the first wave of iPhone 5 shipments to Taiwan Mobile were sold out on the first day of the launch. The total pre-orders of the iPhone 5 through Taiwan Mobile have already surpassed those of the previous iPhone 4S, representing stronger demand in the local market. The iPhone 5 starts at NT$21,900 (US$753) for a 16GB model, NT$25,500 for a 32GB model and NT$28,900 for a 64GB model, according to Apple's website. Taiwan is among the 50 countries in which Apple is planning to roll out its 4-inch iPhone 5 handset this month, the U.S. company said in an announcement on Dec. 3. According to local daily Commercial Times on Dec. 10, market sources said about 20,000 to 30,000 iPhone 5s can be delivered on the first day of its launch in Taiwan Friday. Nearly 1.8 million iPhones of various versions have been sold here and the number could hit 2.5 million units with the addition of iPhone 5, the report said. Apple's iPhone 5, unveiled in the U.S. on Sept. 12, is taller, thinner, lighter and faster than the previous iPhone 4S. According to Apple, pre-orders of the phone topped 2 million in the first 24 hours, more than double the previous record of 1 million held by iPhone 4S. British banking group HSBC Holdings Plc forecast in September that the addressable market for iPhone 5 users in Taiwan is projected to reach 5.9 million, or 25 percent of the top three telecom operators' combined subscribers. That will include 2.5 million users who subscribe to Chunghwa Telecom, along with 1.7 million users each from Taiwan Mobile and Far EasTone, HSBC wrote in a report. However, Japanese brokerage Nomura Holdings Inc. warned that the iPhone 5 may be unlikely to boost Taiwanese telecom operators' revenue, given none of them have launched fourth-generation services to date. The carriers would find it"slightly difficult"to charge higher monthly subscription fees along with the iPhone 5 launch, the brokerage said. (By Jeffrey Wu)