Mobile operators urge release of more spectrum

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 4:04am

The government is facing renewed calls to release more mobile spectrum and create a secondary market for trading those assets in Hong Kong, following strong opposition to its plan to seize and re-auction chunks of 3G spectrum currently in use.

The city's leading mobile network operators last week urged the government to expedite the two developments at a meeting of the Legislative Council's panel on information technology and broadcasting.

Stuart Chiron, the head of group regulatory affairs at PCCW's HKT, said the government should put new spectrum into the market as it did with the 3G spectrum in 2001, and then allow a secondary trading market to develop.

HKT, SmarTone, CSL and Hutchison Telecommunications have also called on the government to follow international practice by automatically renewing their 3G spectrum allocations in the 1.9-gigahertz to 2.2GHz band, which are due to expire in October 2016. The government, however, has drawn up a so-called hybrid approach in which a third of each operator's 3G spectrum allocation will be seized and auctioned off to boost competition and maximise use of the spectrum.

This plan is up for public consultation, which will close on April 11.

At the legislative panel's meeting last Wednesday, the four local operators were joined by global telecommunications equipment suppliers Huawei Technologies and Nokia Siemens Networks in warning of major mobile services disruption in Hong Kong if no new spectrum is added.

Nigel Chan, the head of solutions engagement for Nokia Siemens Networks for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, pointed out that there would be "at least a 30 per cent loss" of network capacity under that government plan. Wong Kam-tai, the chief operating officer of Huawei Tech Investment, the marketing subsidiary of Shenzhen-based Huawei, said more spectrum will be needed to support further development of high-speed 4G technology.

Susie Ho Shuk-yee, the Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, told the panel that existing 3G operators can participate in the planned government re-auction where they may get the chance to gain more spectrum.

The government successfully auctioned off new 4G spectrum two weeks ago.

The city's four mobile network operators already operate 4G networks over different spectrums, but their 3G infrastructure provides vital support for current traffic. Existing 3G spectrum can also be redeployed to run future 4G services, accommodating growth in subscriber numbers.