The Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) has been striving to build an 'open, fair and stable regulatory framework', over the past three years, according to its senior assistant director, Anthony Wong. Stability was fostered by preparing detailed licence conditions with long durations and preparing legislation aimed at giving the industry and the public a firm outline of the future regulatory outlook. 'We always try to publish our policies ahead. Telecommunications technology is advancing very quickly so we try to have the framework as stable as possible.' 'Some of our most important work concerns the control of numbering and frequencies. We try to allocate them in a fair and equitable manner.' Mr Wong, who has been with Ofta since it was created three years ago said the thriving mobile market was a model of the benefits of competition to the market place. 'I think we have done quite well with mobile. We have introduced competition in handsets, allowing customers to bring in their own handsets. Handset prices are now very cheap.' Ofta expected the new Personal Communications Systems (PCS) licences to be awarded soon and dismisses recent articles claiming to identify the winning groups. Mr Wong said the PCS services, which operate at higher frequency than existing digital services, were needed urgently to cope with exploding demand for cellular services. 'There were more than 888,000 subscribers at the end of April, up by more than 300,000 in just 12 months, and that has happened without any significant drop in air time charges. You can imagine what will happen when PCS comes in at lower cost.' He said the existing services were crowded, leading to a drop in service quality resulting from a higher incidence of dropped calls and busy signals. Other recent liberalisation moves by Ofta include allowing 'call back' operations, and self provisioning of telecommunications services. One of the challenges for Ofta in liberalising Hong Kong's telecoms market has been the absence of any law covering anti-competitive behaviour. This has meant starting from scratch, creating specific provisions for the local telecommunications scene and building them into the body of regulations governing the sector. Ofta's workload has been increasing over the past few years. 'When there is only one licensee you don't really have to do any interconnection and there are no anti-competitive issues. The situation is far more complex with four operators,' Mr Wong said. Ofta is on a good financial footing. It is now operated on a trading funds basis, which means it can charge the industry for services provided.