Hong Kong gets its spectrum priorities wrong

John C. Tanner
19 Dec 2013

What is it about Hong Kong and spectrum licenses these days?

The Executive Council (ExCo) caused an uproar in October by awarding two new free-to-air broadcast television licenses - one to PCCW, the other to Wharf-owned i-Cable - while denying a third license to Ricky Wong's HKTV, despite the recommendation of the Communications Authority (CA) that all three applicants be granted a license.

A month later, the CA announced it would go ahead with a plan to recall a third of allocated 2.1-GHz spectrum from the city's existing four 3G licensees (CSL, HKT, Hutchison and SmarTone) when their licenses expire in October 2016 to create a fifth 3G license for auction - which existing licensees say will wreck service performance and raise costs for consumers.

The former decision has caused far more public outcry for a number of reasons, from the slow and unsatisfactory explanations from ExCo to the fact that Chief Executive C.Y. Leung has been under political fire for just about every decision his administration has made from Day 1.

The 3G licensing decision hasn't received as much attention or public criticism - which is ironic, since it could have far wider consequences for consumers.

The incumbents have argued - via two studies from Plum Consulting - that confiscating a third of 3G spectrum would degrade service performance by almost 40% during peak periods, and would require serious network upgrades to make up for the lost capacity, which will be passed on to consumers.

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