HKT, SmarTone gird for more intense rivalry in mobile services

HKT and SmarTone are racing to unveil services that exploit the capabilities of smartphones

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 2:12am

Days before the iPhone 5 makes its debut in Hong Kong, two of the city's leading telecommunications services providers have separately unveiled new mobile strategies designed to harness the capabilities of Apple's new handset and other advanced smartphones.

PCCW subsidiary HKT, which runs 4G operator PCCW Mobile and the city's largest fixed-line network, yesterday launched its "Smart Living" service to help local consumers use their smartphones and media tablets for so-called home automation.

The carrier will assist customers in automating controls, over Wi-fi connections, of multiple home settings - including lighting, curtains, air-conditioning, surveillance system, internet-linked "smart" television and other home entertainment devices - using a single interface on their smartphone or media tablet, such as HKT's Eye Tab.

Apart from providing technical assistance, HKT will also sell what it calls best-value smart TVs and internet-ready hi-fi stereo systems through its refurbished PCCW-HKT retail stores.

"Our design philosophy has been to put up-to-date information at customers' fingertips in a high-class, high-quality and paperless environment - and to make them feel at home," said Alex Arena, the group managing director at HKT.

Arena said many of the 60 existing PCCW-HKT shops would be renovated over a two-year period. The flagship store for this new retail strategy was opened in Mong Kok last night.

"We will open new flagship shops in prime locations," said Arena, without disclosing the cost of investment. He pointed out that the new services and shops would boost HKT's profile as "a premium brand".

SmarTone Telecommunications, which was named by Apple last week as its initial local 4G network partner for the iPhone 5, yesterday showed a preview of its unique "Cloud Storage Manager" offering that is expected to be popular with many smartphone users.

Douglas Li, the chief executive at SmarTone, said the online service could be accessed through a new mobile application that is downloaded to a user's smartphone or media tablet.

It will manage, secure and provide a single login to all of a user's online storage subscriptions, such as Dropbox, Sky Drive and Google Drive.

Advanced 4G networks based on the technology called long-term evolution (LTE) can provide theoretical online download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. The fastest 3G networks run up to 42Mbps.

SmarTone may be the local 4G network provider for the iPhone 5, but subscribers with other carriers can use the device on their operator's existing 3G networks.