Hong Kong catching up in Wi-fi race, say experts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong is racing to get ahead of the game as Wi-fi hotspots develop throughout the region and new products make connections faster and easier, tech investors say.

More than a thousand Wi-fi hotspots were installed across Hong Kong in the first two months of the year, according to government officials. These hotspots enable wireless connections to the internet for users of laptop, phone and other portable communication devices.

Frederick Ma Si-hang, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said the GovWifi programme launched last month will give Hong Kong a competitive edge with access to free wireless internet at over 30 government buildings. There are plans to have around 2,000 hotspots covering around 350 locations by the middle of next year.

Yet technology experts and investors specialising in the information and communication technology (ICT) field regard Hong Kong as having made a late start in Wi-fi penetration. Joseph Tsui, president and chief executive of Symphonic Networks, one of more than 580 exhibitors at this year's HKTDC International ICT Expo said: 'The world is moving towards Wi-fi, but Hong Kong was a little bit late.'

The International ICT Expo is a professional trade fair for information, communications and technology companies to showcase their state-of-the-art software solutions and services.

Mr Tsui said that what he saw at an IT show in 2006 made him realise that Hong Kong needed an initiative to promote Wi-fi penetration and subsequently encourage investment in the technology. 'Many other countries were already promoting Wi-fi and it became clear that its use had to be encouraged. The hotspots show that this is being done.'

As officials put into place their own vision, Wi-fi users and those at the forefront of the industry are eager to enhance access and the capability and broadband required to transmit digital video and sizeable data.

'Problems are already being seen in Macau where there are many users trying to access the same application point. Users encounter some interference in a crowded area,' Mr Tsui said.

Now Symphonic has partnered with Extricom to give visitors to the International ICT Expo an insight into Wi-fi solutions that can overcome these problems with its Interference-Free WLAN System. The device represents the next generation of enterprise Wi-fi with a 'fundamental shift in architecture from 'cell-planning' to a 'channel blanket' topology'.

'It is very good for an environment which is crowded [with other Wi-fi users],' Mr Tsui said, who admitted to not being keen to invest when first approached by the company, but was soon won over when given a demonstration.

'This ICT Expo will be a good opportunity for people to see what the next generation of artificial intelligence on which the Wi-fi platform is based can do.'

Extricom said the technology eliminated the 'co-channel interference that plagues traditional WLAN systems to deliver seamless and zero-latency mobility'. Robust, 'wire-like' client connections, greatly increased capacity and the ability to design for a guaranteed and predictable level of service for users.

Extricom vice-president for marketing, David Confalonieri, said the company, which has offices in Tel Aviv, New York, London and Tokyo, started operations in China last October. 'We are very pleased with the rapid progress we have experienced. Having established a presence in Beijing and Shanghai, the response from reselling partners and early customers has been strong.'