RADIO experts at Hongkong University have developed a special set of computerised planning and measurement tools for mobile telephone and radio-paging networks which they believe could save operators months of work and millions of dollars. The new tools mark the result of a year's efforts by Dr Lam Wong-hing's mobile radio communications research and development group. The group is now building its own digital cellular telephone handset and radio base station, as well as a futuristic high capacity wireless communications system for Asia. ''With our computerised system, you can do in days what it used to take months to do,'' said Dr Lam. ''Why hasn't this been done here before? In the evolution of cellular systems, the user has had no concept of cell coverage. ''If you have only one operator, it doesn't matter how bad the coverage is. ''Here, in Hongkong, we have four cellular operators and, because of the competition between them, customers are much more conscious of service quality and service coverage has become very important to operators. ''With these tools, we are leading the world in terms of sophistication and accuracy.'' Dr Lam is now inviting local cellular operators to the university to show off the new tools, which cost more than HK$1 million each. He said cash for radio research projects was lacking in Hongkong and believed the future SAR government might be more willing to sponsor developments. ''Hongkong is five or 10 years behind the West in developing and implementing [its own] radio systems, due to the lack of expertise and financial support. This is going to change after 1997,'' said Dr Lam. ''The telecom industry has to be government supported - and given not just verbal support. At the moment, the top central government in China realises the importance of the telecom industry, and I expect the SAR government to do the same.'' Adding a new radio base station to an urban cellular network could cost more than US$400,000, including site acquisition and equipment, according to radio communications supplier Hughes Network Systems. In Hongkong, operators such as Hongkong Telecom CSL have networks comprising more than 90 radio base stations. The company has ploughed millions of dollars over the years into fine tuning its antennae to get the best possible coverage. The university team has developed two tools, each of which incorporates a detailed electronic map of Hongkong, including topographical features, buildings and the coastline. One tool is used in planning network antenna sites, and can predict the coverage pattern of an aerial placed in any particular location. By adjusting the position, tilt and power of the antenna, the likely coverage pattern can be altered and improved in relation to its neighbours. A graphic display operates like a radar beaming out from the planned antenna and uses different colours to show the strength of the radio signal in various parts of the coverage area. Once an antenna is installed, another tool is used to measure the precise strength of coverage at various locations in the cell site. This system is contained in a portable computer and connected to a cellular handset which can measure the signal. Sensors help determine the exact location of the unit anywhere in the territory to within 1.5 metres. The tools could be used in planning a wide variety of wireless systems, from radio-paging networks to the personal communications networks which might be introduced in Hongkong in two years' time, said Dr Lam. The research team's ultimate goal is to develop a flexible wireless communications system tailored to Asian countries which integrates today's digital technology with the programme for Research in Advanced Communications in Europe (RACE). RACE will aim to provide customers with wireless access to 155 Mb communications channels after the first specifications are drawn up at the end of this century.