Arbitration over network likely

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 1994, 12:00am

NEW World Telephone is so concerned at the slow progress of negotiations with Hongkong Telecom over sharing its network that it is considering referring the issue back to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (OFTA.) New World is one of the three groups chosen by the Government to operate a new telecommunications network.

The three groups have been negotiating with Hongkong Telecom for access to its existing network and portability of telephone numbers, among other things.

The negotiations, carried out in a series of meetings, were ''very heavy'', Francis Wong, operations manager for New World Telephone, said.

''I think Hongkong Telecom will have to accept the fact that they have lost the monopoly and will have to adjust their thinking and behaviour along those lines.

''We [the new players] are collectively very, very concerned that time is running out for our preparation,'' he said.

New World, which plans to invest at least $2 billion on the first phase of its network, hopes to launch its service on July 1 1995.

It is relying on access to Hongkong Telecom's network to deliver its service.

Mr Wong said: ''Realistically, you can't build a network overnight. It took Telecom 75 years to build theirs and we couldn't do it any faster.

''We can build one eventually but, for the moment, we need to share access with them. At the end of the day, it is a matter of how many sockets you want in your wall - whether you want four or one. I believe one is more appropriate.

''That is the only way consumers can exercise their right to choose in a timely and cost-effective way.'' As the body responsible for the introduction of competition to the telecommunications market in Hong Kong, OFTA has directed Hongkong Telecom and the three new organisations to enter commercial negotiations with each other regarding the terms of their co-operation.

However, it has made it clear that, if negotiations break down, it is ready to arbitrate.

Mr Wong said he believed the progress on the customer access question may well warrant arbitration.

''There are only 11 or 12 months to go,'' he said. ''We are counting the days and, if we can't get good progress, we may have to resort to OFTA.'' In addition to negotiating with Hongkong Telecom, New World has been busy recently planning its network. This has so far involved selecting vendors and fine tuning its business and technical plans.

Mr Wong said his overall impression of OFTA's first year was that it had assumed a huge responsibility and was functioning competently.

''It is a new set up and it has become fully laden with the heavy responsibility of administering the introduction of competition into telecommunications in Hong Kong. That competition is a big backdrop.''