SmarTone to join HK 4G war

Fiona Chau
27 Jul 2012

Hong Kong mobile carrier SmarTone Communication has unveiled plans to launch a LTE network in the 1800-MHz frequency band next month, a move expects to intensify the city’s brewing 4G war.

SmarTone CEO Douglas Li said commercial services will be available on August 28, with existing 3G data plans apply to new LTE services.

The company, which failed to gain 2.6-GHz frequencies in the 4G spectrum auction in 2009, will implement LTE technology by refarming the 1800-MHz frequency band that it originally used for 2G services.

Li said the introduction of 4G will double the operator’s network capacity, and customers can benefit from more quality services and improved customer experiences.

The biggest benefit of the introduction of 4G is additional broadband capacity and it allows the operator handle the traffic loading better, thus further encourage mobile users to use more data services, he added.

Li said that rolling out LTE in the 1800-MHz band provides better indoor coverage and can improve spectrum efficiency by 30%.

Yet he doesn’t expect the 4G launch to impact APRU, saying this metric is more driven by market forces than technology.

SmarTone aside, 3 HK has also started reframing the 1800-MHz spectrum for LTE, with plans to complete the refarming in 2013, in a bid to further enhance its 4G indoor coverage. PCCW Mobile is also planning to do the same but hasn’t yet announced the details.

With its advantages of providing better indoor coverage and the possibility to provide fast mobile broadband networks with a substantially wider coverage at lower cost than when using 2.6-GHz, 1800-MHz has become a promising option for LTE deployment.

According to GSA, LTE has been commercially launched using 1800-MHz spectrum in 19 countries by 23 operators, including CSL, Telstra (Australia), SingTel and M1 (Singapore), TeliaSonera (Finland), Duestche Telekom (Germany), KT (South Korea).

In addition to the commercially launched LTE1800 network deployments, trials, studies and consultations have been or are being conducted in over 25 countries, including Brazil, France, Sweden and the UK.

The choice of LTE1800 devices has also significantly expanded. There are now 98 LTE devices that can operate in 1800-MHz, which is almost double the number reported by GSA in January 2012.

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