Hutchison Telecom to add new 4G network, ramp up infrastructure in Hong Kong later this year

CK Hutchison Holdings’ subsidiary says it will roll out a new network based on the Chinese-developed TDD-LTE standard and combine this with its existing 4G infrastructure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 8:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 February, 2016, 8:21pm

Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong, the city’s second-largest wireless network operator, plans to deploy an expanded 4G infrastructure from the second half of this year to meet growing demand for data capacity.

Chief executive Peter Wong King-fai said on Monday that the company has already started to “re-farm part of its 900-megahertz spectrum for 4G long-term evolution (LTE) service” to prepare for so-called carrier aggregation to boost its network bandwidth.

He added the company will roll out a new 4G network based on the Chinese-developed standard called time-division duplex LTE, combining that with its existing 4G infrastructure based on the more mature frequency division duplex LTE standard.

Hutchison Telecom, a subsidiary of billionaire Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings, runs mobile services in Hong Kong and Macau under its “3” brand, while its fixed-line residential operations fall under “3Home Broadband”.

The company also provides sophisticated fixed-line network connections, high-speed Wi-fi, data centre and cloud computing services to enterprises under the Hutchison Global Communications (HGC) brand.

“3 Hong Kong will also continue to enhance base station facilities to increase network speed and coverage, preparing Hong Kong as an international smart city as well as facilitating the development of the internet-of-things (IoT),” Wong said.

IoT refers to a new network of physical devices that collect and exchange data over high-speed wireless and fixed-line connections. These include buildings, cars, surveillance cameras and advanced home appliances like thermometers embedded with software, sensors and other electronics that allow them to be controlled remotely.

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“The connection between all of 3 Hong Kong’s cell sites and HGC’s optical-fibre lease lines has been upgraded to 1 gigabit per second [network speed] in February to facilitate 4.5G and 5G development in the future,” Wong said.

Hutchison Telecom did not disclose its capital outlay this year, but said total spending last year was between HK$600 million and HK$700 million.

The operations of an initial number of 5G networks in some markets were targeted for 2020, after the official standards for the technology have been drawn up and widely adopted by the global telecommunications industry.

Japan’s NTT Docomo, for example, is scheduled to start its 5G network trials a few years ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

A recent report by Barclays said the advances being made by Hutchison Telecom appear as though it is focusing on mid- to high-end mobile subscribers.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post in November, Wong said Hutchison Telecom was gearing up for a new wave of fixed-line investments and services after spending more than HK$10 billion over the past 20 years building an extensive fibre-optic network across Hong Kong.

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Jennifer Tan Yuen-chun, the chief operating officer at Hutchison Telecom, said the company operated “a world-class 100G optical-fibre backbone network” in the city that supports its fixed line, Wi-fi and mobile networks.

“We have united the three networks to deliver a superb customer experience, covering personal telecommunications, entertainment and business applications,” Tan said.

That also enables the company to step up expansion of those businesses, she said. Its Wi-fi network will reach 23,000 hotspots by the end of this year and 3Home Broadband to cover two million Hong Kong households by the end of next year.

Tan pointed out that HGC was also committed to becoming the platform of choice for new over-the-top content providers, such as Hong Kong broadcaster TVB with its “myTV SUPER” mobile app.

Shares of Hutchison Telecom were up 0.39 per cent to close at HK$2.57 in trading on Monday.