China Telecom has revealed its third batch of mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) with mainland technology firms Xiaomi, Haier and Lenovo making it to the list. The surprise, though, is the inclusion of Taiwan-based original equipment manufacturer Foxconn.
Of late, Foxconn has been investing a lot in the telecommunication business. In October last year, it won a license to build a fourth-generation mobile telecom network on the island. It has also invested NT$116 million (US$3.9 million) to become the biggest shareholder of Asia Pacific Telecom, the fourth largest mobile operator in Taiwan.
During a shareholders’ meeting last month, Foxconn chief executive Terry Gou talked about his “11 screens, three nets & two clouds” strategy. The group plans to build an ecosystem that weaves these three elements together.
The “11 screens” portion refers to the most popular display platforms that people use nowadays, including smartphones, tablets, television sets and car dashboards. “Three nets” stands for internet, internet of things and the smart grid.
“Two clouds” means cloud computing and fog computing, a concept brought by Cisco which means that data can be processed locally in smart devices rather than being sent to the cloud for processing. Fog computing is one approach to dealing with the demands of the ever-increasing number of internet-connected devices sometimes referred to as the internet of things.
One way to combine the screens, nets and clouds is by gathering big data via 4G networks.
Gou said the group is good at manufacturing electronic devices, but without support from the “three nets” and “two clouds”, it would be stuck in the low-margin contract manufacturing business. Foxconn aims to become an all-round technology service provider.
Take smart cars. Foxconn not only plans to produce the hardware — such as a tablet on the car dashboard — it also wants the tablet to connect to Foxconn’s data base through the group’s 4G network, where the group could use the big data it has gathered to interact with the customers in a more relevant way.
The company is also working on a three-dimensional map, which is supposed to give better street views than Google Maps.
Apart from exploring opportunities in the telecom business, Foxconn is trying to come up with its own designs and labels in the hardware business. The company has linked up with Blackberry to produce the latest Z3 handset in Jakarta in May. It has also launched its own mobile accessories brand Coverbank and a bluetooth headset Candyard.
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