The government should act as an unbiased judge to level the playing field in business, with a view to introducing competition that will provide consumers with more choices and push down prices, said Anthony Wong Sik-kei, former director-general of telecommunications.
Experience in the opening-up of each segment of the telecommunications market, including the IDD, fixed line and mobile networks, has shown that competition brings more benefits than disadvantages to consumers, the Hong Kong Economic Journal, parent publication of ejinsight.com, reported Monday, citing Wong in response to a recent controversy over the award of free television broadcast licenses.
When the British colonial government was seeking to liberate the telecommunications market, Ricky Wong Wai-kay, the chairman of Hong Kong Television Network (01137.HK) which is trying to challenge the monopolistic market condition in the television industry, adopted the then newly developed call-back model for long-distance phone service.
The technology had been in use in the West but Hong Kong Telecommunications, a monopoly in the market back then, did not introduce it to the city but charged calls at HK$12 (US$1.55) per minute, Anthony Wong said.
Ricky Wong brought the technology to Hong Kong after he founded City Telecom (Hong Kong). This led to cut-throat price reductions.
Despite complaints from Hong Kong Telecom the government let City Telecom go ahead with its service as there was no regulation defining call-back service as illegal, Anthony Wong said.
The former telecommunications chief said he is a follower of the late economist Milton Friedman, an advocate of free markets. Wong said the market will never move to a saturated point, nor will the present television market run into vicious competition.
The introduction of the call-back service in the IDD market turned out to be a bargaining chip in negotiating with the British firm Cable & Wireless Plc. for the withdrawal of its then subsidiary Hong Kong Telecom’s exclusive operating right.
In 1995, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority unprecedentedly issued fixed-line licenses to Hutchison Telecommunications Hong Kong Holdings (00215.HK), New World Telecommunications and Wharf T&T.
Stepping down from government office, Wong has moved on to pursue his dream in Chinese medicine.
It was once an initiative of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s administration to turn Hong Kong into a Chinese medicine hub.
At 65, Wong is heading the Hong Kong operation of the mainland Chinese medicine group Wellsoon (International) Medicine Co.
The group aims to explore more international markets, such as Singapore, before seeking an initial public offering, he said.
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