SmarTone offers free mobile broadband service on taxis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong CSL and SmarTone-Vodafone are fighting to win back attention to their third-generation mobile-telephone services after PCCW seized the spotlight earlier in the year with new wireless internet and mobile music offerings.

SmarTone, the mobile arm of Sun Hung Kai Properties, aims to grab public interest with a three-month free trial of its mobile broadband service on 100 taxis that will give laptop-toting passengers internet connections with download speeds of up to 3.6 megabits per second.

The company has installed a mobile broadband modem with a USB link on each sponsored taxi for the trial period. Laptops are not provided.

'We want to let laptop users know the convenience of full mobility internet connection by using mobile broadband services and surfing the Net on taxis should be a good entry point,' SmarTone chief executive Douglas Li said.

SmarTone has booked a further 200 taxis as part of the HK$1 million campaign to promote the service, each featuring a roof-top replica of a white, clamshell-shaped mobile broadband modem.

The company believes it is the first telecommunications operator to offer free mobile broadband on taxis in the city.

'This shows our innovation and creativity in delivering new experiences to customers,' Mr Li said in an interview.

The campaign comes after PCCW earlier this year said it would create about 3,000 Wi-fi hotspots across Hong Kong, extending the availability of wireless connectivity for laptop users in the city.

'Our position is totally different,' Mr Li said. 'Our campaign does want our potential customers to try our real mobile broadband service and recognise our advantage over fixed-point Wi-fi internet connectivity.'

Media Eye tried the taxi mobile broadband service and found after taking a minute to connect the laptop to the network that the internet connection was stable and the speed acceptable. Of course, users need to check their laptop's battery life before plugging into the internet as there are no charger sockets in the cabs.

csl music downloads

While SmarTone attracts the laptop lugger, Hong Kong CSL, the city's largest mobile operator by user numbers, is challenging PCCW with a service that lets subscribers save music downloads on their mobile handsets.

CSL offers 3G users 10,000 songs that can be downloaded and stored on handset memory cards at HK$20 for three songs.

'More than 70 per cent of customers who subscribe to the 3G plan will choose the Music Pack,' Michelle Au, CSL's general manager in marketing and public relations, said yesterday.

CSL had about 200,000 3G users by the end of last year.

The service competes with PCCW Mobile's 'MOOV on mobile', launched in December by the 3G operations of Hong Kong's largest telecommunications operator.

MOOV subscribers pay HK$68 per month for unlimited access to more than 60,000 songs. The service's streaming technology means users are unable to save the music.

hkbn eyes i-cable users

Hong Kong Broadband Network, the fixed-line operation of Hong Kong-listed City Telecom (Hong Kong), wants to lure 100,000 pay-television subscribers from rival i-Cable Communications, HKBN chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay said on Monday.

HKBN's Digital TV service is adding eight foreign channels to its stable, including National Geographic, AXN and children's channel Nickelodeon. They will be available from April 1 at a basic monthly tariff of HK$168.

After i-Cable lost the exclusive right to carry English Premier League games to PCCW's Now TV from August, its programme line-up would be similar to HKBN's, Mr Wong said. 'We are confident we can attract i-Cable's non-football subscribers to join us.'

Mr Wong estimated about 300,000 of i-Cable's 780,000 users would switch to Now TV.

'The remaining 450,000 or so subscribers should be our target customers,' he said. 'It would be a significant customer base if we attract 20 per cent of them to our service.'

HKBN, which also competes with i-Cable in telephone and broadband internet services, has about 130,000 pay-television subscribers after the business kept a relatively low profile over the past 12 months in the face of aggressive marketing from both PCCW and i-Cable.

'We will definitely increase our investment in our television business in the next 12 to 24 months,' Mr Wong said.