Fixed-line operator Wharf T&T said yesterday it would shift its focus to business customers and aimed to complete its self-built network coverage to about 1,800 commercial buildings by the middle of 2008.
The fixed-line operation of Wharf (Holdings) is fine-tuning its business model as the government prepares to phase out the Type II interconnection that allows operators to use PCCW's last-mile connection by June 2008.
'In order to continue serving our customers, we are in a hurry to build our own last-mile network to commercial buildings,' vice-president Raymond Mok said.
Wharf T&T operates 500,000 fixed lines, about 300,000 of which are business lines and account for some 20 per cent of market share.
'Our last-mile network covers around 980 commercial buildings now, and we aim to increase the number to about 1,300 buildings by the end of this year,' Mr Mok said.
He expects the company will be on schedule to replace all its existing Type II interconnection with self-built access.
Meanwhile, Wharf T&T will only serve residential customers by using the network of i-Cable Communications, a cable-television operator under the Wharf group.
'As i-Cable's network covers more than two million households, we will use it to replace the existing Type II arrangement,' Mr Mok said.
Most of Wharf T&T's 200,000 residential fixed-line customers are connected through the Type II arrangement. The company will gradually replace that with i-Cable's voice over internet protocol technology.
Wharf began using i-Cable's network to provide residential voice services last year and has more than 50,000 customers.
I-Cable provides a bundled pay-television, voice and broadband service for a monthly tariff starting from $99.
Wharf T&T recently awarded a management contract to i-Cable to handle all sales, marketing and customer service for the residential fixed-line operation.
But up to 300 sales and marketing staff are still employed by Wharf T&T. 'We are not downsizing our business. They are still paid by us,' Mr Mok said.