SmarTone to heat up 4G market with new network

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2012, 12:00am

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SmarTone Telecommunications expects to intensify competition in the city's nascent 4G mobile market with the launch of its new high-speed wireless network next month.

Chief executive Douglas Li said yesterday that from August 28, SmarTone would offer 4G subscribers the same 3G tariff plans it now provided.

The carrier also vowed to deliver 'superior network performance' and better indoor coverage, which is made possible by running 4G services on the lower 1.8-gigahertz frequency band.

'Our choice [of frequency band] has proven prescient, with a wide range of compatible devices being made available by all the leading smartphone manufacturers,' Li said.

SmarTone's new infrastructure supports a technology known as frequency division duplex long-term evolution (FDD-LTE). The other recognised 4G network standard, time-division duplex long-term evolution (TDD-LTE), is championed by China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless network operator.

HKT, the telecoms arm of PCCW, and Three Hong Kong, the mobile unit of Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong, both operate their respective 4G FDD-LTE networks on the 2.6GHz band. China Mobile Hong Kong, the mainland carrier's local unit, also runs its FDD-LTE network on the band and will soon build a complementary TDD-LTE network that will run on the 2.3GHz band.

CSL, the city's largest wireless operator, runs its 4G FDD-LTE network on both the 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz bands. It was the first mobile carrier in Asia to launch a commercial 4G network, in November 2010.

Advanced 4G networks have theoretical web download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The fastest 3G networks run at 42Mbps.

Macquarie Securities analyst Lisa Soh described SmarTone's entry in the 4G market as 'a positive development for Hong Kong's mobile industry since it will add more network capacity' for local subscribers to use.

Li said the increase in capacity 'means more customers can enjoy a good mobile broadband experience at the same time'. Leading LTE network supplier Ericsson, which is building SmarTone's network, has said greater demand for high-speed web access means operators must cope by establishing 4G networks.

Shares of SmarTone, a Sun Hung Kai Properties subsidiary, rose 1.26 per cent yesterday to finish at HK$16.06, the stock's highest close since reaching HK$16.08 on April 25.