On the road to mobile connectivity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

Electronics engineers take pride in putting Hong Kong at the cutting edge of innovation. A new challenge facing local engineers has been how to keep notebook users online while in a moving taxi.

'This is a world first for our city and a fair challenge for the electronics engineer,' said Alan Mok, SmarTone-Vodafone's special project general manager for engineering and operations.

Mr Mok and his team applied 3G mobile technology to 100 taxis so a notebook user could plug into a USM modem and use the SmarTone-Vodafone radio network to go online.

The engineers and marketers of the product had in mind taxi passengers who wanted to catch up with work while on relatively long taxi journeys; for example, to and from the airport.

'People may ask 'What for?' Well, time is money and this matches the personality of Hong Kong,' Mr Mok said. 'It also shows the dynamic things we can do here.'

The service was launched in March and the electronics engineers from SmarTone-Vodafone carried out tests around the clock to ensure signal quality anywhere from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and beyond, was good.

'It's not a one or two person job. It's what we call 'end-to-end engineering'. All the team's engineers were involved in this project,' Mr Mok said. 'We not only had to take care of the engineering; we also had to ensure the whole network would be covered, from installation, maintenance, surveillance and planning.

'We mastered this technique with tests day and night so that we know the coverage, know the user experience and have now put the system live.'

Mr Mok would only say that it took 'a short period of time' - from inception to last-minute tests - to establish the system. 'Providing full coverage is not an easy job, but in this environment we have to be very agile and creative.

'That is another characteristic of electronics engineering,' he said. 'For civil engineers, the timescale from the inception of a building structure until its completion can be years. When electronics engineers are first given a problem to sort out, you're talking about a few weeks.'