HONGKONG Telecom is determined to keep a step ahead of Singapore in the battle for telecommunications market share in Asia, says deputy chief executive Peter Howell-Davies. 'We intend to do all we can to ensure that Hong Kong is the hub of uplinking and downlinking satellite stations in the region,' he said yesterday at the commissioning of two satellite dishes built at Stanley Earth Station. 'We made the commitment to build these earth satellite stations and invest our money before the satellites were there. 'So if the satellites had failed we would have these dishes left doing nothing, but if we didn't take the gamble then Singapore might have said, 'Well we'll build them'.' The dishes took eight months to complete and were built at the request of major broadcasting companies wanting access to the ApStar-1 and PanAmSat-2 satellites. Hongkong Telecom invested about $60 million. ApStar-1 was launched last July and is wholly owned and operated by APT Satellite Company, which is a Chinese, Thai and Singaporean consortium. Its footprint reaches from Mongolia to India and western China to Japan. APT will launch ApStar-2 early next year. Deputy director of APT's satellite operating and management department, Wu Shou Kang, said that 13 of the satellite's 24 transponders were in use and most were for broadcasters rather than telephone companies. 'One transponder carries maybe two channels,' he said. TVBS, TVB international's network in Taiwan, is one company that has begun accessing ApStar-1 using one of the new satellite dishes called Hongkong 11. Chinese Television News (CTN) and Reuter are so far the only subscribers of Hongkong 14, the satellite dish that is linked to PanAmSat-2. Regional vice-president of PanAmSat in Asia, Andrew Jordan, said that many more Asian broadcasters had signalled an interest in accessing PanAmSat-2 via Hong Kong but he could not reveal the interested parties. 'This dish [Hongkong 14] is capable of uplinking numerous television services. You could uplink the whole satellite from here if you added some more equipment,' he said. PanAmSat-2 was launched last week and covers footprints from Bangladesh to California and from Russia to New Zealand. It can also beam to specific locations in northeast Asia, China, Australia and New Zealand. 'You can be sure there will be more earth stations according to demand,' Mr Jordan said. Hongkong Telecom has been supporting programmes via the two satellites from broadcasters such as ESPN Asia, Reuter TV, China Entertainment Television, and Turner Broadcasting's CNN and TNT/Cartoon. Now their programmes will be accessed specifically by the two new satellite dishes. The Stanley Earth Station will have 13 satellite antennae by the end of the year. Three are at Cape D'Aguilar and provide the means of communication for ships in the area. 'Stanley is already the largest [satellite earth station] in the world,' said Allen Ma Kam-sing, director of marketing at Hongkong Telecom. 'I'm sure it's going to grow, particularly if the Government is helpful.' Mr Howell-Davies was appreciative of the licensing regime set up by the Recreation and Culture Branch of the Hong Kong Government that allowed for high levels of foreign investment. He said that he hoped such a regime would continue. 'We can only do our best with the Hong Kong Government.'