HONG Kong Star Internet has invested millions of Hong Kong dollars to improve its system, mainly by increasing phone line capacity. Star Internet already has the largest customer support team when compared with other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and will continue to expand its customer service department to service the Internet market in Hong Kong. The company says it plans to install a PABX telephone switching system on its network by the end of this year that will capable of handling a massive 5,000 phone lines simultaneously. Around 800 to 1,000 phone lines will be added to its existing system by the end of the year. Star Internet intends boosting its number of phone lines to provide stable Internet access so that it can reach around 1,500 by next year. Billy Tam, operations director of Hong Kong Star Internet, said that the company would soon have two independent full-bandwidth international lines direct to two major ISPs in the United States - UUNET and MCI Internet. Star Internet plans to make its system fully non-stop to maximise its service to the general public. 'We have received complaints about our modems which were not answered after our users phoned in several times for Internet access. Actually, this is not our problem, but Hongkong Telecom's fault. Most people may not be aware of this,' Mr Tam said. He said that when most telephone lines within a certain area were busy at the same time, Telecom's 'hunting' feature might not work properly; it would, sometimes, hunt elsewhere, causing users to think that Star's modems were not answering their calls. 'When people complained, we found that a lot of our modems were just sitting there waiting for incoming calls. There's no line batching to our modem pool from Hongkong Telecom. Therefore, this is not our fault.' Mr Tam went on: 'It is as if a user called someone's home and nobody answered. But his friend was there. When the traffic is heavy, the switch goes crazy.' That is the reason why Star Internet has invested millions of dollars on improving its in-house telephone system. Star Internet says that its telephone switching system could be compared with some of Telecom's sub-stations when the installation is complete. The other key item on Star Internet's system improvement agenda is catering for the approach of the year 2000. According to Mr Tam, it is the first company which can handle at least 160MB per second minimum in a Hong Kong-launched ATM network. This technology could give 600+MB/s in future. Recently, Star Internet bought two sets of Sun Microsystem 1000 servers, which can handle the capacity and the growth of the next three to five years. Sun 1000 server's power is equivalent to 10+ SUNSparc 20 workstation. Mr Tam said Sun offered great speed advantages. Apart from maintaining stable system connectivity, the ISP also educates people on the importance of the Internet and communication with the world. The company runs free training and exhibition centres in Mongkok, Kwun Tong and Tsim Sha Tsui. Sales and marketing manager David Teng Wan said over 90 per cent of Star Internet's clients were inexperienced Internet users, who also constituted the main source of complaints. Adding capacity would go a long way to keeping them happy, according to the company. 'Although we are gradually increasing the telephone lines and have recruited more friendly staff to provide much better customer services to our clients, we have still found that the demand is sometimes beyond our control.' Hong Kong Star Internet has installed some sites for the Government and provides training to all the major government departments and offers technical support to each department connecting to the Internet. It is also engaged in teaching them HTML and CGI programming. It hopes that the Government can put as much information on its Web pages as possible. This will help keep Hong Kong people informed about what is happening locally and help other countries understand the territory better. 'Hong Kongers, through the Internet, can go outside their homeland to understand other countries. That is why we support the Hong Kong Government's project.' In Mr Tam's opinion, this is a breakthrough for Hong Kong. By releasing information on the Internet, the Government was trying to bolster the free trade market, Mr Tam said. 'It's still a long way to go since there are still a lot of new technologies to be discovered. 'The Government still has a lot of information to release and to work out how to convert their internal documents to HTML. 'That is a big task for each individual department to work on.' The Government's official Web site ( http://info.gov.hk ) was launched on November 22,with links to many separate sites.