CSL goes global with 4G service
The two leading wireless network operators in Hong Kong and South Korea are set to introduce next month the world's first 4G international mobile roaming service between the two markets.
CSL, the first mobile carrier in the city to launch a 4G network based on the technology called long-term evolution (LTE) in November 2010, and Korean wireless market leader SK Telecom yesterday said their landmark service would be available from July 1 and pave the way for more roaming agreements among existing 4G LTE operators.
'This is a significant milestone for the telecommunications industry, which continues to debate the feasibility of 4G LTE international roaming,' said CSL chief technology officer Christian Daigneault. 'Our pioneering partnership with SK Telecom is proof that 4G LTE international roaming will be a reality worldwide - sooner rather than later.'
CSL and SK Telecom will support their high-speed 4G mobile roaming service on the 1.8-gigahertz band, the radio spectrum on which the two carriers' compatible LTE networks run.
Advanced 4G networks have theoretical internet download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The fastest existing 3G networks run at 42Mbps.
The LTE networks of CSL and SK Telecom are based on the widely adopted frequency division duplex (FDD) standard. The other recognised LTE standard is called time-division duplex, which is being championed by China Mobile.
Daigneault said 4G international mobile roaming had become a complex undertaking not only because there were two LTE standards, but also because of the existence of about 40 frequency bands on which operators could run these networks. SK Telecom, for example, also runs its LTE network on the 800-megahertz band.
CSL's apparent advantage is that its 4G network runs on both the 2.6GHz and 1.8GHz bands. 'There are about 70 operators that have launched commercial 4G LTE networks [worldwide] and a large portion are on those two bands,' he said.
He added that those would not be issues anymore when smartphones and media tablets that supported multiple bands and LTE standards became available in future.
CSL's next 4G international roaming partner is expected to be its parent firm, the Australian telecommunications giant Telstra.
Daigneault said CSL, which operates the 1010, one2free and New World Mobility brands, was in discussion with many other FDD LTE network operators.
Macquarie Securities analyst Lisa Soh said CSL's pact with SK Telecom would put pressure on other local LTE network operators - 3 Hong Kong, HKT and China Mobile's Hong Kong subsidiary - to start generating revenue from 4G international mobile roaming. 'Roaming typically accounts for 20 to 25 per cent of total revenue for each Hong Kong mobile network operator,' she said.
The number of visitors from Korea exceeded one million for the first time last year, while Korea receives more than 30,000 Hong Kong visitors every month, according to the tourism boards of both markets.