Hong Kong aiming to be one of the earliest adopters of next generation connectivity

Written on 17 Dec 2019

Fifth generation (5G) mobile network technology is fast maturing in Asia and Hong Kong seems determined to be one of the early adopters. The Hong Kong government has reiterated the importance and potential of 5G for a variety of businesses in the region, as well the opportunity to move to become a "smart city".

The city is on a fast track of building out a 5G telecommunications infrastructure. 26 GHz and 28 GHz were assigned to three mobile network operators in March 2019. Subsequently, the Office of the Communications Authority ran a series of auctions, with CMHK, HKT, SmartTone, and HTCL making the list of successful bidders so far for capacity in the 3.5 GHz band (with CMHK and HKT also successfully bidding for 4.9 GHz licences).

The efforts are not just by government: institutions such as Hong Kong Applied Science & Technology Research Institute have commenced autonomous vehicle trials with 5G pilots, which are aimed at informing the rapid roll-out of the 5G network.

The network operators themselves have shown optimism by investing heavily in the 5G service. SmartTone, for one, claims to be investing billions of Hong Kong dollars to develop its 5G network - this despite the government having set a healthy reserve price at the spectrum auction.

By contrast, mainland China decided not to charge spectrum licence utilisation fees, which should enable operators there to invest even more boldly in an extensive network infrastructure roll-out.

With the process on-going, Hong Kong is expecting a 5G-service launch from major operators during 2020. Allen Fung Yuk-lun, deputy chairman of SmarTone, believes that the competitiveness of the telecommunications market in Hong Kong will mean that pricing will not be prohibitive for customers.

5G technology means far more than a higher internet speed for consumers. It will bring a variety of new or enhanced capabilities for businesses – in AI, IoT, and "smart city" or mobility applications among others.

On 2 December 2019, CMHK announced it had carried out Hong Kong’s first test of Standalone 5G technology and the first voice-over-new radio call. CMHK is now installing 5G NR radio equipment at the existing 4G LTE base stations, in order to launch 5G services with NSA infrastructure as soon as possible, so will likely be the first network operator to launch a 5G network in Hong Kong.