Healthy rivalry heats up
Mobile brands are pushing new products to increase market share as charges come down and competition surges, writes Diana Danyi
On July 19, 1O1O launched a series of television commercials with the theme of 'What matters to you, matters to us'.
The message showing that 1O1O, one of the three mobile brands of CSL, is constantly thinking of its customers, offering them services that matter the most, is just one example of recent campaigns launched by mobile service providers fighting to attract customers in Hong Kong's highly competitive mobile services industry.
Hong Kong, with a penetration rate at more than 137 per cent and five operators competing in a relatively small market, is one of the most competitive mobile markets in the world.
Mobile network operators, operating under a liberalised and market-driven regulatory regime, are struggling to create new ways to attract customers.
PCCW, Hong Kong's biggest telecommunications company, in June launched the first service in the city that could automatically direct traditional fixed-line voice calls, faxes and voice-mail services to a mobile device.
The company believed that the service will boost its customer base.
At that time CSL introduced the HTC Touch smart device which brings an innovative concept to intuitive touch screen navigation and supports Edge (enhanced data rates for GSM evolution) with a range of innovative products and new services to keep its market-leading position.
'We believe a high-quality network is essential. By adopting an integrated 3G network [PRS/Edge/3G] approach, we ensure our customers enjoy stable, reliable and high-quality voice and data services whenever they want,' CSL general manager, marketing communications and public relations, Michelle Au said.
Diana Fu, media public affairs manager of the Office of the Telecommunications Authority, said the mobile number portability (MNP) introduced by the government in March 1999 was a significant step to promote mobile market competition.
The MNP allows mobile service users to retain their telephone numbers when they switch to another network operator, so the growth of mobile services has been profound since its introduction.
'While in 1997, the penetration of mobile services was only 25 per cent, by April 2007, the number of mobile service subscribers has grown to almost 9.5 million, representing a penetration rate at around 137 per cent, which is among the highest in the world.'
The number of 3G service customers in Hong Kong had grown to 1.5 million by the end of April as a result of 3G networks being upgraded with high speed downlink packet access technology and HSDPA-enabled services being introduced.
CSL was the first to launch its 3G Mobile TV which turns a 3G handset into a TV set.
The service allows customers to watch about 30 infotainment stations including live news, finance and entertainment around the clock on their mobile phones with just a simple click.
Targeting the younger generation, the company came up with the 'freeBlog' cross-platform service accessible by internet and mobile phone.
One2Free customers can create, upload and view their blog via their handset to blog virtually anytime, anywhere.
'Hong Kong is one of the most competitive mobile markets in the world. However, the advantage of the Hong Kong mobile market is that customers are showing a higher acceptance of new devices, service applications and multimedia content that is relevant to their daily lives and business needs,' Ms Au said.
As part of its marketing strategy, CSL is penetrating various segments of the market through its three registered mobile brands. The business user's choice is 1O1O, known for its high quality service. New World Mobility is positioned for the mass market looking for practical and value-for-money mobile services. One2Free is more the lifestyle, trendy brand with its innovative, value-added services popular among the younger generation.
The heightened competition in the industry means it is ultimately the customer who comes out the winner, benefiting from lower price levels, excellent quality of service and a variety of service choices.
Ms Fu said: 'The intensive market competition has enabled mobile service customers to enjoy much lower mobile service charges and substantial savings in making mobile calls. In the past 10 years the mobile charges have substantially decreased from an average of several dollars per minute to less than 10 cents per minute.'
The Hong Kong market will continue to be competitive. Ms Au said: 'Technological advancement can enhance people's lives and the challenge for the mobile operator is to translate complicated technology to relevant, easy-to-use services to make customers' lives simpler and better.'