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Hong Kong behind in 5G due to ‘short-sighted’ spectrum policies, says HKT

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 9:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 6:11am

Telecommunications giant HKT claims the Hong Kong government has done nothing to push forward 5G development in the city, paling in comparison with efforts by other major economies to roll out the advanced mobile system by 2020.

“It is not clear if the government understands all the implications of true 5G,” HKT said on Wednesday in a new industry paper to draw public attention to what it called “short-sighted policies on mobile spectrum”.

The city’s largest telecommunications network operator said 5G’s ultra-fast data speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second at home or in the office, and at least 50 megabits per second everywhere else, will require “at least five times the bandwidth used for 4G, and represents a huge increase simply not available in the spectrum bands allocated to earlier generations of mobile services”.

“True 5G is about massive machine-type communications, and ultra-reliable and low latency communications,” it said. “Spectrum allocation can no longer be as generic as in the past when the focus was on mobile broadband alone.”

Hong Kong has 582 megahertz of total mobile spectrum in use by the city’s four incumbent mobile network operators, which include Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong, SmarTone Telecommunications and China Mobile Hong Kong.

It will be capped at that amount over the next three years, according to the government’s plan.

HKT has called for the release of new spectrum in the 3.5 gigahertz and 700 megahertz bands this year. The 3.5GHz band is currently allocated for satellite services, while the 700MHz band is used for analogue television broadcast services.

In response, the Office of the Communications Authority reiterated that it will follow the 5G standardisation process at the World Radiocommunications Conference in 2019. The event is organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency responsible for designating 5G standards.

Commenting on the government’s strategy, Charles Mok, the legislative councillor for the information technology sector, said: “This is procrastination.”

Mok said the ITU has indicated that governments need not wait for the final standards to start 5G preparations. Initiatives in Japan, South Korea and mainland China are already well advanced, he said.