Lai See

HKT takes telecoms regulator to court over Apple's sim-locking

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 6:16am

Apple recently took a pasting in People's Daily and other official mainland media for its trading practices. Now it is being criticised in Hong Kong for "anti-competitive practices" and for a "flagrant disregard" of the regulator for its own commercial gains. These criticisms are contained in court documents in which PCCW's HKT, which operates PCCW Mobile, is seeking leave to apply for a judicial review over Apple's practice in Hong Kong of sim-locking. This involves restricting the use of a mobile phone via the sim card. Apple's iPhone 5, which hit the market in September last year, has the ability to run on the new, faster 4G/LTE networks. It will also run on the 3G networks of all five mobile operators in Hong Kong. But initially it would only run on SmarTone's 4G/LTE network. Subsequently, the phone has been able to run on the faster networks provided by Hutchison and CSL, but not those of PCCW Mobile and China Mobile.

HKT's application for a judicial review is not directly aimed at Apple but at the Communications Authority, which it says has been dragging its feet over the issue and is not doing its job properly. In its court documents, HKT draws attention to the "sim-lock statement" issued by the regulator in 1997 which says that sim-locking for "the purposes of tying customers to networks", other than for the purpose of discouraging fraud or theft, "is strictly forbidden". HKT argues that Apple is in breach of this requirement while also noting that only those operators that have agreements with Apple to buy its devices have access to the faster networks. Apple denies that it has done anything illegal. Nevertheless, its actions, HKT asserts, along with the failure of the regulator to act within a reasonable period of time to its complaints, has damaged PCCW Mobile in causing a significant number of consumers to believe that PCCW Mobile does not support the iPhone 5 on its faster 4G network. This, it says, had cost it hundreds of millions of dollars by the end of December 2012.


Poor tycoon behaviour

We hear of more complaints about tycoon mobiles making a nuisance of themselves at the drop-off area at Hong Kong station. A reader complains of having to be dropped off on the road outside the station rather than the pavement. This is because there were four large black tycoon mobiles occupying much of the available space while, no doubt, waiting for their respective masters to appear. Everyone else was inconvenienced by the congestion they were causing. As usual, the "traffic control" wardens did nothing to move them on. Instead, they were busy noting the registration numbers of taxis that allowed people to hop in after their passengers had alighted, even though it was only a matter of seconds before they sped off with their new fare.


A question of class

We have more for those wishing to continue the great debate triggered by our Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah as to what it means to be middle class. Class and its ramifications have long been an issue of some interest in Britain, where it has been debated by social commentators and comedy shows like Monty Python. Such is the level of interest in the matter the BBC has developed The Great British Class Calculator where people are grouped into seven classes, depending upon how they answer a series of questions. This can be found at There, we see people wrestling with questions like, "Can I have no money or job and still be middle class?" Then there is this: "I've been lost in South America, and 'found myself' in Nepal. What else could I be but a middle-class cliche?" Click on the "reader reactions" of people after taking the survey to find observations such as, "Had they asked me whether or not I grind my own coffee, which I do, I might've been established middle class." So, in this context, it would appear that Tsang's assertion he is middle class because he drinks coffee and watches French films is not so wide of the mark.


Too much rain

The Hong Kong Observatory appears to have got rather carried away with yesterday morning's deluge of rain. Its mobile app claimed that as of 11.10am the hourly rainfall was 0.5m. The rain certainly appeared rather heavy but not to that extent. Clearly, what it meant to say was 5mm.