Outgoing telecoms chief urges sector to keep ahead of the times

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong's telecommunications market should maintain its competitive edge to attract new investment for the next generation broadband network, said Au Man-ho, director general of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority yesterday.

Mr Au will retire from the post today after serving the telecommunications regulator since it was established in 1993; he has been the director general since August 2004. The government has appointed Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen to assume the post beginning next month. She is the currently deputy secretary for commerce, industry and technology.

During Mr Au's helm, PCCW was granted a free hand in setting the price on fixed-line services when faced with competition from new competitors. But it has not been treated as a dominant player in the fixed-line market since 2005.

The regulator will also phase out PCCW's obligation to provide an open network arrangement to new fixed-line players in 2008. This policy encourages new fixed-line players to invest in network infrastructure.

'Hong Kong successfully attracted new investment in broadband infrastructure and users can enjoy higher speed of broadband service of over 10 megabits per second,' Mr Au said, adding that the city has over 70 per cent broadband penetration which is one of the highest in the world.

'The next director general should consider helping the city to construct a new generation broadband network which will be running on a full internet-based infrastructure. Existing broadband service may not meet the demand for much faster broadband service in the future,' Mr Au said. 'We need to facilitate the private sector to have a good business environment to boost investment for new broadband facilities.'

Mr Au also said the regulator needed to prepare for an updated regulatory framework for the convergence of fixed and mobile services, and also the combination of media and telecom services such as mobile television in the future.

Mr Au will not join the private sector in the next two years, as he will be under the cooling-off period. 'I will not be allowed to work for telecom-related firms to avoid conflict of interest,' he said in his last press gathering before his retirement yesterday. 'I am now studying comparative history in Hong Kong and I will travel around Europe.'