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SmarTone joins call for release of new spectrum to drive Hong Kong’s 5G preparations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 9:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 8:38am

SmarTone Telecommunications, the city’s No 3 wireless network operator, has decided to close ranks with rival HKT to convince the Hong Kong government to change its mobile spectrum policy and step up the industry’s 5G preparations.

“The industry is faced with rising spectrum costs and uncertainty regarding spectrum supply,” SmarTone chief executive Anna Yip said on Thursday, after the company reported its interim financial results for the six months ended December 31.

“We urge the government to accelerate the supply of spectrum to the market and provide a clear road map,” Yip said. “This is crucial for long-term industry planning.”

She said further delays would put Hong Kong at risk of “falling behind other regional telecommunications markets on the path to 5G”.

Hong Kong mobile network operators seek new spectrum release plan for 5G

Industry regulator the Communications Authority has repeatedly asserted that it will not allocate new radio frequencies for 5G before a global consensus on the next-generation mobile technology’s standards is reached in 2019.

Eliza Lee Man-ching, the director-general of communications, last week said: “It is impossible for us to allocate spectrum without international standards. We don’t have the conditions to get ahead of others.”

HKT had earlier called for the release of new spectrum in the 3.5 gigahertz and 700 megahertz bands this year and other new spectrum next year. In Hong Kong, the 3.5GHz band is currently allocated for satellite services, while the 700MHz band is used for analogue television broadcast services.

We urge the government to accelerate the supply of spectrum to the market and provide a clear road map
SmarTone chief executive Anna Yip

Charles Mok, the legislative councillor for the information technology sector, last week pointed out that governments need not wait for the final standards, as 5G preparation in Japan, South Korea and mainland China are already well advanced.

Yip said SmarTone intends to work closely with the government on the spectrum issue.

SmarTone, a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai Properties, posted a 2 per cent decline in net profit in the six months to December to HK$393.39 million, down from HK$402.73 million in the same period in 2015, as the take-up of handset-bundled plans decreased.

Total revenue fell 47 per cent to HK$5.37 billion, compared with HK$10.23 billion a year earlier, as smartphone and accessory sales fell 64 per cent year on year.