SUDDENLY, cable television has become switched on. Two days after the long-awaited launch of Wharf Cable's transmissions on Sunday, Hongkong Telecom announced its application to the Government for a cable-TV licence. Now a New World Development-Infa Telecom Asia consortium wants a bite of the cable-TV pie. And Hutchison Whampoa is understood to be planning a cable-TV operation if it gets a fixed telecommunications network licence. Running cable TV seems to be the fashion in Hong Kong and many paint a rosy picture for the industry. The cable-TV market looks a good bet as viewers look for greater variety and alternative programming for entertainment, business and information. Some may doubt whether the business is that lucrative, especially when it involves a long-term capital commitment, or that four or more operators can be accommodated in the Hong Kong market. A well-established cable TV network will generate huge and steady income from subscription fees. Wharf Cable, the first cable-TV operator in Hong Kong with a monopoly until May 1996, probably has the best advantage because it has nearly three years to develop its network. Strong competition after Wharf's exclusivity period expires will be good news for Hong Kong audiences who will have more choices than ever - provided they are willing to pay. The strong interest of consortiums bidding to operate cable TV signals that the television industry in the territory is entering an era of diversity. As Wharf Cable has only been transmitting for less than a week, it is unclear whether cable TV will be well received in Hong Kong. The Government's task now is to determine how many fixed telecommunications network licences will be issued to the five applying consortiums, led by Wharf, New World, Hutchison, Pacific Link and Champion Technology. The more fixed network licences that are granted, the stronger the future competition in the cable-TV industry.