SmarTone Telecommunications last week topped street forecasts with a 23 per cent jump in full-year profits to $466 million, trumping rivals whose bottom lines were hurt by cutthroat price competition in Hong Kong's tough mobile phone market. That has made SmarTone's successful run in this low-tariff environment a hot topic among industry executives. Earful gathers that SmarTone proved smarter than the competition in capturing business from visitors' roaming, which accounted for more than $600 million of its total revenue. SmarTone wanted to keep this big profit generator under wraps, as suggested by the limited description of roaming operations in its annual report. The firm did not even break out that business as a separate revenue item. Analysts found out that roaming accounted for as much as a quarter of SmarTone's total mobile revenue of $2.48 billion, up an enviable 10 per cent from the previous year's results. The importance of roaming could also be found in the firm's cost items. Interconnection and international telecommunications costs grew 25 per cent to $351.89 million, a large chunk of which is believed to be roaming-related. DBS Vickers analyst Wallace Cheung said: '[SmarTone] built strategic network infrastructure to capture the in-bound roaming revenue potential created by the growth in mainland tourists.' Another analyst speculated that SmarTone may have added cell sites in visitor areas such as the international airport at Chek Lap Kok and the Kowloon Canton Railway Corp terminal at Lowu. With that infrastructure buildup, SmarTone made sure its network was the first to connect with all incoming tourists. On another front, SmarTone finally caught up with two larger rivals in offering privileged services to top customers. Its new PriorityOne programme is for subscribers whose annual phone bill exceeds $3,000. The service offers personalised assistance and other privileges. Selected customers enjoy immediate access to the SmarTone hotline and prompt service at all outlets. These included one-to-one consultation on use of its multimedia services and 24-hour, worldwide emergency assistance outside Hong Kong. Rival CSL launched its ClubBest service in 2002, when it offered to deliver flowers for customers. This year, it offered Asia Miles rebates. Hutchison Telecom was way ahead in the game when it established a membership scheme eight years ago with its 'Everyday Card' service, which gave selected discounts to users in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Heavy users were offered the 'Orange Premium' (renamed 3 Premium) service in 1998. Last week CSL launched its annual television advertising campaign for its One2Free brand, targeted at young subscribers. Canto-pop star Jay Chou was put front and centre in a seven-chapter series of commercials. Using the theme 'You gotta be free', the ad campaign promotes MP3 Ringtone, 3D Game, Video World, connecting tones and video message services. Sunday Communications, which reported a 37 per cent rise in interim net profits, says it has developed a hybrid location-based system, using the global positioning system with China Mobile. The service is expected to help companies managing fleets of vehicles travelling between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.