Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) has urged Chunghwa Telecom to reevaluate its international roaming service agreement with China Unicom Hong Kong. The NCC believes that the service has become a security loophole, undermining efforts to combat telephone scams and protect national security.

The NCC has proposed changes to the Telecommunications Management Act after discovering that prepaid cards sold by China Unicom Hong Kong, also known as “blackberry cards,” have been used in fraudulent activities in Taiwan. These cards allow users to access telecom services in Taiwan using Hong Kong phone numbers and international roaming services. However, they cannot be used in Hong Kong, which the NCC argues violates the principles of fairness and reciprocity in telecom services.

Moreover, individuals who purchase blackberry cards online are not required to provide two forms of identification as they would when applying for telecom services in Taiwan. This contravenes the act, according to NCC Vice Chairman and spokesman Wong Po-tsung.

The commission has already suspended 250,000 phone numbers on blackberry cards in Taiwan and anticipates more suspensions based on information from prosecutors’ offices nationwide.

The NCC has also proposed amendments to the act that would require telecoms to disclose roaming services with other countries in their business plans. These services must not compromise consumers’ interests or national security, disrupt social order, or telecoms could face fines ranging from NT$500,000 to NT$5 million (US$15,392 to US$153,922) for failing to thoroughly implement their business plans.

Chunghwa Telecom is currently the only telecom in Taiwan that maintains a one-way roaming agreement with China Unicom Hong Kong. The NCC hopes that Chunghwa Telecom, as Taiwan’s largest telecom, will exercise self-discipline regarding this issue.

Chunghwa Telecom has since denied the NCC’s allegations that it is not part of the government’s efforts to combat fraud. The company stated that it has informed China Unicom Hong Kong that only users whose identifications have been verified can access roaming services in Taiwan. Since August, Chunghwa Telecom has blocked 25,500 SIM cards from roaming in Taiwan and last month informed Hong Kong telecom that it would terminate the roaming service contract with them.


By Harry