HK telcos pay $200m in latest 4G auction

Dylan Bushell-Embling
20 Mar 2013

Four of Hong Kong's mobile operators have paid a combined HK$1.54 billion ($198.4 million) for blocks of 2.5-GHz and 2.6-GHz 4G spectrum in a just-concluded auction.

SmarTone, CSL, China Mobile Hong Kong and Genius Brand each secured spectrum in the auction, which concluded yesterday, regulator OFCA announced.

Genius Brand is the LTE joint venture between Hutchison Telecom Hong Kong and PCCW's Hong Kong Telecom (HKT).

Mainland telco China Unicom had participated in the auction – marking the first time it had bid for Hong Kong spectrum – but was not successful.

Instead SmarTone, which had missed out on the first-round 4G auction and had been relying on its existing 1,800-MHz spectrum for its LTE network, picked up two of the five 10MHz slots put up for auction. SmarTone paid a combined HK$640 million for the lots.

China Mobile picked up spectrum to accompany the 2.3-GHz airwaves it acquired in February 2012. The operator launched a dual-mode FDD/TD-LTE network in Hong Kong late last year.

CSL said that with the auction it now has four adjacent 10MHz blocks of LTE spectrum, and that with its existing refarmed 1,800-MHz allocation it now has the most FDD LTE spectrum of any Hong Kong operator.

An OFCA spokesperson noted that while all the winning bidders were existing operators, “the fact that a new entrant,” ie China Unicom, “has participated in the spectrum auction demonstrates that even though the mobile telecommunications market in Hong Kong is extremely competitive, it continues to attract new investments.”

The spokesperson added that the HK$30.8 million per MHz average price of the auction is 80% higher than the price obtained from an auction in the same band in 2009.

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