Speed up 3G spectrum review, mobile firms say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 3:34am

Hong Kong's leading mobile network operators are calling on the government to speed up the review of its plan to seize and auction off chunks of 3G spectrum in use.

SmarTone Telecommunications, CSL, Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong and PCCW's HKT also urged the government to be transparent in its selection of a consultant for a technical feasibility study.

In a joint letter sent recently to the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting, a copy of which was obtained by the South China Morning Post, the four mobile network operators said the public and the industry must be given ample time and opportunity to review the consultant's findings before the government makes a final decision on its plan this October.

The Office of the Communications Authority (Ofca), the industry regulator, had also received the network operators' joint position paper.

The operators have warned of as much as 40 per cent degradation of mobile network services and higher cost of these services to consumers if the government pushes through with its planned 3G spectrum reassignment.

They hope to convince the government to follow longstanding industry practice worldwide and automatically renew their 3G spectrum licences on the 1.9-gigahertz to 2.2GHz band. The licences are due to expire on October 21, 2016.

The government, however, plans to implement a so-called hybrid option in which a third of each operator's 3G mobile spectrum will be seized and auctioned off to promote more competition. The public consultation on this matter concluded on April 11.

At the March 28 meeting of the legislative panel on information technology and broadcasting, Ofca deputy director-general Ha Yung-kuen said a technical consultant would be appointed to study the impact of its plan on mobile service quality in Hong Kong. This study and the final decision on the 3G spectrum plan will be made at the same time in October.

In their joint letter, the four mobile network operators said that timing defeated the purpose of commissioning the study, but "more importantly, deny the panel and the public of the opportunity to reach a fully informed view of the government's proposals".