Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong, faced with a saturated voice-tariff market, expects growing demand for its new mobile internet applications to boost mobile data revenue to 33 per cent of its service revenue this year, chief operating officer Amy Lung said.
The mobile arm of Hutchison Whampoa is introducing non-voice services such as third-generation mobile content and 3X-Series mobile applications, including its internet browsing tool and instant messenger service, to earn more from the company's two million-plus mobile-phone subscribers.
Last week, the company introduced i-mode, a Japanese mobile data platform from NTT DoCoMo. The service, which works on both 2G and 3G networks, allows users to access entertainment information such as horoscopes and mobile games through a tailor-made handset.
Hutchison hopes the new services can help boost the non-voice mobile data service revenue to 30 per cent of total service revenue by the end of this year from about 20 per cent earlier this year.
Fierce competition that is prompting mobile players to give away short message services free made the company's target relatively high, Ms Lung said. 'In overseas markets, short messages accounted for a major part of non-voice or mobile data revenue. However, we don't have such a buffer as it is a free service and new revenue is coming from those mobile content downloads and browsing services,' she said.
New services such as 3 explorer, an internet browser on 3G handsets that enable users to browse the internet with unlimited access for a single monthly tariff of HK$28, recorded a 60 per cent retention rate after a three-month trial.
Hutchison aims to drive up data revenue with the launch of the i-mode service.
The brand has proved hugely popular in Japan as mobile phone users use it to send emails and short messages and to access a wide variety of content from their mobile phones. The service had more than 47.6 million users as of April.
DoCoMo has exported i-mode to 16 overseas markets including France and Taiwan, for a further 7.2 million users. In Taiwan, mobile operator FarEastone's i-mode service attracts 500,000 users.
The average revenue per user for i-mode in overseas markets is about 25 per cent higher than from users who do not subscribe to the service.
Hutchison's average revenue per user for postpaid customers was HK$204.
Hutchison Telecom at present offers monthly plans starting from HK$98 with more than 1,400 minutes air time and two megabits of mobile data usage for access to over 70 channels and messaging services on i-mode services. Hutchison introduced the i-mode service with three handsets from Samsung, NEC and Motorola. More i-mode handsets will be added this year.
'We aim to launch some Japanese-style i-mode handsets as early as next year,' said Ms Lung, adding that the company was upgrading its system to accommodate the new handsets.