Applications for fixed-line services will be invited next year in preparation for a full market opening in 2003. The Office of the Telecommunications Authority's (Ofta) timetable is much earlier than expected. 'We want to give enough time for the interested parties to prepare for their network rollout,' senior assistant director Au Man-ho said. He said operators needed time to reserve telecom equipment, hire staff and line up potential partners. Ofta will open the fixed-line network for full competition from January 1, 2003 - the date on which the former telecom monopoly Cable & Wireless HKT - now Pacific Century CyberWorks - will allow inter-connection services with existing fixed network operators. Mr Au said Ofta would not deregulate the fixed-line market before 2003. But the timing of the number of licences issued was yet to be determined. The Government granted six wireless fixed telecom network services licences this year in an attempt to help liberalise the market.