Licences for wireless broadband services go on auction next year

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2007, 12:00am

The Hong Kong government will auction as many as six new licences for wireless broadband service next year which may boost competition in the already congested local telecommunications market.

Market watchers said existing fixed-line operators lacking that last-mile access network connecting them to end-users were likely to have a keen interest in bidding for a licence.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority yesterday said that it would assign new licences on the 2.3 gigahertz and 2.5 GHz wavelengths for the broadband wireless access (BWA) service which allows operators to provide fixed wireless or full mobile service.

Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen, the director-general of Ofta, yesterday said the auction would be held in the fourth quarter next year and services would be available in 2009.

'The issuing of BWA licences will help Hong Kong to maintain its leading position as a telecommunications hub in the region,' Mrs Lai said at the Mobility World Congress yesterday. She said the licensing framework would be technology neutral and market oriented. The government will put no limitation on what technology the licensees can use and the number of licences that can be issued.

'Details of the pre-qualification requirements, the auction rules and the reserve price will be released nearer the time of the auction,' Ms Lai said. 'Any interested party including incumbent fixed and mobile carriers will be welcome to bid for the spectrum.'

Wharf T&T, the fixed-line telecommunication arm of Wharf Holdings, expressed interest in bidding for the new licences.

'The new licences can enable us to provide fixed broadband service initially and we can offer a mobile service once the technology is ready,' said Raymond Mok Wai-man, a vice-president of Wharf T&T, a fixed-line operator owned by Wharf Holdings.

'The key issue is whether there are enough new applications to attract investment on a new network,' said Wong Chi-man, a telecommunications analyst at China Everbright Securities.

Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) is a wireless technology that can be used on the new spectrum. It can support fixed wireless and full mobile service with a download speed of 40 megabits per second.

In October, WiMAX was adopted as a global 3G mobile standard by the International Telecommunications Union, a UN organisation handling global telecommunications issues.

On air

Operators without last-mile access may show keen interest in a licence

After the licence auctions in the fourth quarter next year, services should be up and running by: 2009