Focus turns to speed

17 Jul 2009

CSL CTO Christian Daigneault tells Telecom Asia group editor Joseph Waring why its new HSPA+ network is a key differentiator and why its has invested to be the fastest

Joseph Waring: You switched over to your all-IP HSPA+ network in April. Can you give us an update on that move‾

Christian Daigneault: There is lots of interest in the shops. This is not the handset market so we're not expecting the same numbers for dongles. We cannot talk about the numbers as this is very strategic. But, in terms of traffic, we saw data traffic double in the first month compared to that on our 3G network. Users are consuming a hundred times more data than the regular users, so it doesn't take many users to make up the traffic.

Our 3G network was not really being used for data, although we saw data traffic double each year. But that was nothing. That was the traffic generated by handsets, downloading music and things like that. But once we offered dongles, it complete changes user behavior. In just one month we saw traffic double, so it remains to be seen what it will be after 12 months.

What are the implications for your network if traffic continues to increase at this rate‾

First of all, this network has been built with huge capacity. A typical network in Hong Kong is using one frequency, although we have the possibility of three. HSPA 21 Mbps gave us more efficiency so we can consume more data because we have efficient modulation.

We have built this network for 40 times the capacity of our existing network on day one. So there is no issue for this year. But if the success continues the way we see it now, that would be a good problem, and we'll need to expand further the capacity.

With many people now looking at the infrastructure more as a commodity, which can easily be outsourced, how much of a differentiator in the market is an operator's network today‾

We think it's still a huge differentiator. All the operators have access to the same technology because technology is a world standard. But how much money they put in the network is the choice of each operator. We believe we are investing higher, and the Next G network is a full-blown replacement network.

All our promotions are based on having the highest speed and the widest coverage in Hong Kong, so network differentiation is really what we are promoting. We see from tests that the network is very different, and once users try it and experience it they will see the difference.

What happens when everyone offers 21 Mbps‾

The challenge is that it is becoming very technical and more difficult for the customer to be able to understand. You can have a very good device, like the iPhone, but if your network is congested, then you work at 50-kbps max because you have so many users. Although every operator is claiming they have 14.4 or 21 Mbps, their ability to support that speed at peak times is really a function of how much they invested in the network capacity.

If you look at the fixed broadband example, there was a lot of talk about speeds in the past, but now speed is rarely something that comes up.

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