OFTA's view vindicated
I WRITE to supplement your editorial of September 28. In February 1994, I initiated a public consultation exercise to develop and implement a plan for the future development of mobile communications in Hong Kong. At that time there were only 296,645 cellular telephone users and the conversion from analogue to digital technology had only just commenced.
It had been expected this conversion would meet forthcoming demand for several years. The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA), however, believed that arrangements needed to be put in place to cater for a very large increase in new customers. OFTA's view has been vindicated. The number of cellular telephone users now number about 600,000. The market has effectively doubled in a year and a half, with an average of about 16,000 new customers joining each month. This demonstrates how this sector of the economy is truly one of the most dynamic.
I am pleased to be able to say that OFTA's own efforts in mandating that cheaper parallel-imported handsets must be connected by the cellular operators have simulated this market demand. Also OFTA has been effective in convincing the cellular operators to reduce their connection charges. Cellular telephones are undeniably now much more affordable in Hong Kong.
OFTA's consultation exercise was completed in November 1994, a new radio frequency spectrum has been cleared and applications for up to six new personal communications services (PCS) licences were invited. Fourteen very good bids were received at the end of March, of this year and have been evaluated expeditiously by my office. This whole process has been transparent and widely reported, including in the South China Morning Post. I am confident that OFTA has been diligent in discharging its remit and has got it right: how else could one rationalise the extraordinarily keen interest among the 14 bidders to win PCS licences? I look forward to the Joint Liaison Group's early endorsement of the grant of these PCS licences so that the next phase of development of Hong Kong's mobile communications sector may commence.
A. A. ARENA Director-General of Telecommunications OFTA