May 27, 2005, 4:11 PM — Taiwan Mobile Co., Ltd, one of Taiwan's biggest mobile phone service providers, launched a trial of its 3G (third generation) network this week using a Linux operating system as its backbone, an executive at the company said Friday.
But while Linux has been Taiwan Mobile's main operating system for the past few years, its future is less certain with 3G because it is difficult to ensure the ongoing development of Linux applications, said T.C. Juan, vice president of new technology development at Taiwan Mobile. "We decided to use Linux a few years ago because we needed a stable operating system that would not go down. At that time, Linux was the best choice," Juan said.
3G mobile systems change things a bit because service providers will depend more and more on outside vendors to continuously develop and upgrade the software applications that keep users tuned in to 3G services. "Linux is already a proven and workable operating system. But shareware and Linux don't have the resources to do the continuous upgrades and improvements," Juan said.
Taiwan Mobile depended on outside vendors for most of the initial services being offered in its trial run, like video calls, video streaming and Internet access. It will most likely have to increasingly turn to vendors for the software that runs such services, Juan said.
Some help may be on the way for Linux, however. Taiwan Mobile's main 3G equipment vendor, Nokia Corp., said Wednesday that it will allow all of its patents to be used in the further development of the Linux kernel. Open source software communities foster innovation and help in the creation and adaptation of technologies, the company said in a statement. It said it hoped other supporters of Linux and open source would follow its lead.
Nokia's support may help developers to avoid patent conflicts and could provide a boost for companies that offer support and upgrades for Linux applications used with 3G services.
For 3G service providers, the main concern is developing popular services and ensuring they can be used across competing 3G networks, Juan said. Three main players control most of Taiwan's mobile phone market, and they have been trying to develop a standards group aimed at ensuring their services work on each other's networks.