Hutchison Whampoa

Ofta sees advisory role for HK in mainland 3G push

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong mobile operators could play an important role in helping their mainland counterparts deploy third-generation networks, according to Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen, the new director-general of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.

Ms Lai, who assumed the leading post of the watchdog this month, yesterday wrote in a mainland newspaper that Hong Kong telecommunications operators could help mainland 3G licensees launch new services by providing technical and marketing experience.

The central government is expected to issue as many as three licences for 3G mobile networks in time for services to be running before the Beijing Olympics next year.

Hong Kong launched 3G services in January 2004 and now has more than one million 3G users.

'While the market estimates the mainland will soon be issuing 3G licences, Hong Kong operators should play an important role by offering their network construction, roll-out and design expertise to help mainland operators make a quicker launch of 3G services,' Mrs Lai said.

'Hong Kong value-added service providers can also partner mainland operators in offering 3G content, as Hong Kong service providers have accumulated sufficient market experience.'

Hong Kong mobile operators were keen to enter the mainland market as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), an industry source said.

An MVNO offers mobile services under its own brand by renting capacity from mobile network operators.

'It would be best for Hong Kong players to have one or two provinces in the mainland as a trial point for the MVNO arrangement. This could bring in new value-added services to mainland users and competition could raise the service quality of the mainland players,' the source said.

PCCW, the city's largest telecommunications player, indicated two years ago it would partner fixed-line operator China Network Group Corp in exploring the mainland 3G business once Netcom secured a 3G mobile licence.

Hong Kong operators have established relations with the mainland players in the roaming or international traffic fields but do not have any business operations there.

'We expressed our interest in being an MVNO in the mainland when the government revised the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement earlier this year. But it may take a longer time to achieve the goal,' the source said.