Hutchison Whampoa

Hutchison Telecom kick-starts discounted global mobile roaming

Operator’s aggressive discounting strategy may help spark fresh growth for Hong Kong telecoms industry’s moribund mobile data roaming business

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2017, 7:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:57pm

While speculation continues to swirl over the bidding for its fixed-line network business, Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong is looking to spark fresh growth at its mobile operation by offering international roaming for as low as HK$15 a day.

Mobile arm Three Hong Kong will launch its so-called Roam-in-Command programme this Friday, providing discounted data roaming service in six countries in Europe and 10 countries across Asia-Pacific, as well as packages that combine the United States, Canada, mainland China, Taiwan and Macau.

Hutchison Telecom’s aggressive strategy may help kick new life into the moribund roaming business of the city’s three incumbent mobile network operators, which include HKT and SmarTone Telecommunications.

Kenny Koo, the director of roaming and service development at Three Hong Kong, said the operator is drawing on its close industry alliances “to tailor value-for-money roaming packages that offer extensive overseas coverage”.

The partnerships include those with Japan’s NTT Docomo, British multinational telecommunications giant Vodafone Group, Asia-based mobile alliance Conexus and the rest of the Three Group businesses under Hutchison Telecom parent CK Hutchison Holdings.

Three has mobile network operations in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macau, Sri Lanka, Sweden and Vietnam.

“The upshot [from these close ties] is our customers can wave goodbye to the hassle of changing SIM cards or carrying Wi-fi devices just to stay connected with family and friends while abroad,” Koo said.

Three Hong Kong’s Roam-in-Command grants subscribers travelling overseas up to 14 days of discounted mobile roaming, which also come in four 200-megabyte and 1-gigabyte data options.

Mobile roaming traffic for the city’s three incumbent mobile network operators has been on the decline as more subscribers shift to using so-called over-the-top voice and messaging applications, such as WhatsApp and Viber.

Hutchison Telecom reported in February a 4 per cent decrease in mobile customer service revenue to HK$3.9 billion last year, down from HK$4.1 billion in 2015, mainly due to a 13 per cent drop in roaming revenue.

The company will report next week its interim financial results. Speculation is rife that it may also provide guidance on the bidding for its fixed-line network business, Hutchison Global Communications (HGC).

Bids from private equity companies TPG Capital and MBK Partners, as well as independent global infrastructure investment manager I Squared Capital were reported to have been submitted on June 30.

HGC is likely to be valued at US$1.2 billion to US$1.5 billion, a Reuters report said, citing sources.

Tycoon Li Ka-shing, the chairman of CK Hutchison, is keen to get a much higher price for HGC, compared with the HK$9.5 billion paid by TPG and MBK last year to buy fixed-line network provider Wharf T&T from property giant The Wharf (Holdings), a source said.