Irate telecoms firms unite to demand advance notice on convergence policies The telecommunications regulator is pressing ahead with plans to issue wireless broadband permits by the fourth quarter of next year, brushing aside pleas from 13 mobile, fixed-line and satellite firms which say it should address more pressing issues first. But in a tacit acknowledgment of their concerns, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) said it would hold a third round of consultations before issuing the broadband wireless access (BWA) licences. The gesture is unlikely to appease them. In a 27-page document obtained by the South China Morning Post, the operators jointly argued Ofta must first overhaul its spectrum policy and grapple with the issues of fixed-mobile convergence before BWA licensing. They said the value of the BWA licences would be affected by decisions to be made later on spectrum policy and fixed-mobile convergence - such as whether frequencies could be traded or whether interconnection fees between mobile and fixed-lined firms would be adjusted - and that consultations on those issues should take priority. The operators include SmarTone Telecommunications Holdings, CSL, China Resources Peoples Telephone, Sunday Communications, Hutchison Telecommunications, New World Mobile Holdings, PCCW, Wharf T&T, APT Satellite Holdings and Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings. It is believed to be the first time that so many of the industry's operators have united to tackle Ofta. They appear to be choosing not go with the BWA consultation process, claiming they cannot give feedback without knowing how the spectrum and fixed-mobile convergence policies will play out. Ofta does not plan to begin consultations on convergence until next month and consultations on spectrum review will not begin until February - and the process can take up to two years to conclude. 'In the absence of a clear spectrum policy and policies on the substantive fixed-mobile convergence issues, we feel we are not in a position to respond fully to the detailed questions raised in the BWA consultation,' the operators said. However, this has led to criticism that the operators want to delay introduction of broadband wireless technologies to give time for competing 3G networks to mature. Technologies such as WiMax and WiBro would allow fixed-line and mobile operators to offer wireless broadband at speeds of up to 70Mbps, compared with a forthcoming version of 3G powered by high-speed downlink packet access which has an advertised speed of 2Mbps initially and as much as 14Mbps in later stages. 'If the operators have their way, it would mean no BWA in Hong Kong for at least two years, and potentially more, because that is how long it is going to take to do the spectrum review,' IDC telecommunications analyst Claus Mortensen said. 'That kind of delay can have its advantages, especially for the 3G operators.'