Hutchison links Net to mobiles

Joseph Lo

Hutchison Telecom plans to invest $800 million next year to upgrade its cellular networks and to develop mobile-phone Internet applications.

The company yesterday unveiled a plan which would see it roll out wireless application protocol (WAP) services - a form of mobile access to the Internet - on its mobile-phone networks by the end of next month.

Hutchison Telecom - established in 1983 by Hutchison Whampoa, Hong Kong telecommunications firm Distacom and United States electronics giant Motorola - is now 70 per cent-owned by Hutchison and 30 per cent by Motorola.

The firm - which operates the Orange and Xin Gan Xian cellular networks - said the WAP services would enable customers to access a range of Internet-based information and e-commerce services.

Stephen Ngan, director of wireless sales and marketing, said: 'Hutchison Telecom will invest $800 million next year to further enhance its Orange and Xin Gan Xian network facilities, as well as WAP services.

'This includes developing high-speed data transmission technology, recruiting new network facilities, upgrading existing software and carrying out service application research.' To access WAP services, customers would need to buy new WAP-capable handsets which would be on offer from all the top cellular-phone manufacturers.

'Orange's WAP services are expected to be unveiled in November and for Xin Gan Xian in the first quarter of next year,' Mr Ngan said.

Hutchison Telecom - working together with German electronics firm Siemens - said it would adapt a WAP-platform developed by specialist US software provider

This platform supports both the Orange dual-band and the Xin Gan Xian CDMA networks, Mr Ngan said.

Data transmission rates for Orange are expected to be around 115 kilobytes per second and 14.4 KBps for Xin Gan Xian, enabling data to be moved faster than the nine KBps transmission rate at present.

This would allow 'data to be downloaded in just a few seconds', Mr Ngan said.

In the first stage of launch of the WAP services, customers will be able to access various information services via the new handsets.

'We have plans to work with different content providers to provide customers with more comprehensive and innovative value-added services in the areas of information, e-commerce and corporate solutions, with a broad range of interactive, commercial, entertainment and lifestyle contents,' Mr Ngan said.

Most of Hutchison Telecom's rival cellular operators in Hong Kong have announced plans to adopt WAP services over the next several years.

Last month, Peoples said it would spend $300 million over the next three years to adopt WAP and to upgrade its network.