HK cellular set shrug off economic woes to grab the bargains

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 September, 1998, 12:00am

Latest government figures for the cellular industry show net new customers during July came to a shade over 62,000, maintaining robust growth despite the economic downturn.

At the end of July there were 2.47 million mobile subscribers, giving a penetration of 38 per cent based on a Hong Kong population of 6.5 million.

Many had thought growth would slow in the face of rising unemployment and a fall in consumer spending. However, it appears the string of offers bringing down the costs of mobile telephony have kept up customer interest.

In June, 83,000 new subscribers signed up. Of the July new additions, 42,000 - more than two thirds - went to PCS networks. Networks using the 800 and 900 Mhz spectrums (GSM, CDMA and D-amps) added 20,000.

The price battle among PCS operators continues, with SmarTone offering new discounts to customers swapping from other networks.

If a customer has a handset the company is taking nearly 25 per cent off the standard monthly tariff for a three-month promotion period.

Under SmarTone's benchmark plan for 100 minutes, a customer normally would pay $128 a month. Customers using their own PCS handset can pay $98 net a month. Alternatively, they can receive more bundled air time. For $128 a month they would get 130 minutes of air time rather than 100 minutes.

This brings SmarTone's PCS closer to the lowest offer in the market - from Sunday - which is 100 minutes' air time for $88 a month. Hutchison's Everyday PCS charges $120 for 120 minutes. Peoples Telephone is the only operator still offering a true pay-as-you-use option at $1 a minute, with no monthly payment.

As well as launching its dual-band network this week, Hutchison gave details of how its existing networks are faring in the intense competition.

The average revenue per subscriber on its GSM service was $600-$700, said marketing director Stephen Ngan. The CDAM network is earning $250-$300 per month per user and the PCS network also $250-$300.

Mr Ngan admitted that with just 50,000 customers on the PCS network, the company needed to do more. 'We certainly need to be more aggressive,' he said.