Hutchison Whampoa

P-Plus to be one of cheaper services

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 1997, 12:00am

P-Plus Communications, the fourth of Hong Kong's six personal communication service (PCS) mobile phone providers, launched its service yesterday with a target of 50,000 customers within nine months.

The company will charge a monthly fee of $168 for 100 minutes free airtime, making it one of the cheapest mobile deals in Hong Kong.

Chief executive But Ho Ming said P-Plus had spent about $600 million to $700 million building its network so far with another $600 million to come in the next year.

He said the company needed improved coverage before it would go for a full commercial launch of its services, probably in September or October.

'So far we have 130-140 base stations. We will not charge customers until we have at least 180 stations which should be some time in August,' he said.

The company needs about 170,000 subscribers to break even operationally.

Mr But was confident the rapidly increasing use of mobile phones seen over the last year would be sustained.

'Who doesn't need a mobile phone?' he asked.

Many analysts doubt the Hong Kong mobile market is big enough to sustain the 11 networks operated by the eight companies it will have by the end of July.

Mandarin Communications said it would soft-launch its PCS network this week.

In a separate move Star Telecom International Holdings - a major shareholder in the P-Plus consortium - requested the suspension of trading in its shares.

Also suspended at the same time were telecom equipment manufacturer Tricom Holdings and China Strategic Holdings. China Strategic owns 37 per cent of Tricom.

Tricom has been looking for a new partner to join a joint venture in southern China.