A change in the interconnection policy would also deprive consumers of the savings from competition, Ofta told More than half of Hong Kong's residents will lose the right to choose a fixed-line network other than PCCW if the existing interconnection policy is changed, fixed-line operator Wharf T&T has warned. Chairman Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said close to four million Hong Kong business and residential consumers could lose the savings brought about by competition, which has helped push down telephone bills 35 per cent since 1995, returning an estimated $285 million in benefits to telephone users. Mr Ng's comments came amid the Office of the Telecommunications Authority's (Ofta) review on whether dominant operator PCCW still needed to provide mandatory interconnection to its rivals eight years after market deregulation. A second round of consultations by the industry watchdog is expected to be unveiled before the end of the year. Wharf, Hong Kong's No3 fixed-line operator, will launch an advertising campaign this week in an attempt to show how important it is to safeguard consumers' right of choice. Wharf and No4 operator New World Telecommunications, which have half of their users connected through PCCW, support the continuation of the Type 2 Interconnection policy, which allows them to access the so-called 'last mile' to customers. The Type 2 dependency varies from district to district in Hong Kong. According to data provided by Wharf, half of Shau Kei Wan's residents use non-PCCW networks, while nearly all residents in Kennedy Town use the PCCW service. 'The question for Ofta is: does it want to give choices to Grandma Cheung in Reclamation Street and many groups of a weak minority?' Mr Ng said. He said small and medium-sized enterprises in industrial areas such as Kwun Tong, where Wharf has 40 per cent of the business market, would experience serious disruptions if Ofta decided to change its interconnection policy. Wharf's comments contradict claims by PCCW, which said half of all households in Hong Kong now had a choice of more than one network operator. Wharf, which invested $4.5 billion in building its network in Hong Kong, said it did not invest much in the 'last mile', partly because of the return consideration, but also because it was hard to get access to some buildings. 'If we could avoid Type 2, we would,' Mr Ng said. He said Wharf could be one of PCCW's biggest customers, contributing more than $1 million in income to the industry giant daily. At the end of last month, Wharf operated 410,000 lines. 'How can you not call PCCW dominant when it still has 75 per cent market share, compared with its next rival that has perhaps 7 per cent market share?' Mr Ng asked.