Listening in on the telecoms industry Au Man-ho, the director-general of telecommunications, may be outnumbered but shows few signs of backing down. Last week, 13 fixed-line, mobile and satellite operators rallied against his plan to issue broadband wireless permits next year. The gist of their argument goes like this: a spectrum policy review is coming up, which will later affect the value of the licences. How can the regulator ask the operators to bid for spectrum now when this all-important policy review is in the pipeline? But Mr Au notes this has happened before. In 2003, Britain's telecoms regulator put wireless broadband spectrum up for auction - a full two years before a spectrum policy review. And who was the winner of that auction? Ironically, it was a Hong Kong company, PCCW, which walked away with 13 of Britain's 15 permits. PCCW later bought the remaining two from other licence holders, giving it nationwide coverage. What is more, this is spectrum PCCW bought for a bargain US$14 million but is now worth as much as US$100 million, according to some estimates. That's not a bad paper profit considering PCCW has yet to roll out its British network beyond a handful of cities. Ironically, PCCW is now among the 13 operators pushing for a delay in wireless broadband licensing in Hong Kong, saying the regulator needs to sort out its spectrum policy review first. Mr Au pointed to the PCCW example as evidence that the concerns expressed by the operators are unwarranted.