Hong Kong's four major mobile operators have banded together to oppose a proposal by authorities to take back a third of their 3G spectrum holdings.
The operators – Hutchison, PCCW-HKT, CSL and SmarTone – have written a strongly-worded letter to an ICT panel within Hong Kong's legislative council.
The letter states that the Hong Kong government and the Communications Authority are close to making – or may have already made – a decision that would require the operators to surrender one third of their existing 3G allocations in preparation for the renewal of their licenses in late 2016.
The government has publicly proposed a plan to reallocate the expiring spectrum via a hybrid or mixed-mode approach, whereby the spectrum that would be returned following the renewal would be auctioned off. While this is only one of three approaches being considered, it's the government's preferred option.
China Mobile Hong Kong has expressed a desire to provide 3G services directly, and the letter alleges that the government's mixed-mode proposal is a way to free up spectrum for this purpose. China Mobile currently only holds 2G spectrum in Hong Kong, and leases 3G spectrum via MVNO arrangements.
But in the letter, the operators allege that the plan to carve up the existing spectrum holdings “will be seriously detrimental [to] Hong Kong consumers and the future of the Hong Kong telecommunications industry.”
Having to surrender the spectrum would result in network congestion, slower data speeds and dropped or disrupted calls for consumers – particularly in high-traffic areas – the letter states.
The decision would allegedly also deter the operators from making the substantial investments in new 3G infrastructure required to support Hong Kong's surging demand for mobile data.