22 July 2019
Hong Kong can't afford to fall behind in 5G network development, observers warn. Photo: Reuters
Hong Kong can't afford to fall behind in 5G network development, observers warn. Photo: Reuters

Don’t let Hong Kong fall behind in 5G

If Hong Kong misses the right timing in launching 5G service, it will lead to great losses for the local technology sector and the city’s overall economy.

The Office of Communications Authority has launched a public consultation for 5G spectrum auction. The Authority indicated that it would prefer to wait for the International Telecommunication Union’s final decisions on 5G spectrum details, and hence it plans to hold the 5G bandwidth auction by the end of next year.

However, the ITU has already determined that 3.4-3.6GHz bands be mainly for 5G use in 2015. The UK has auctioned 5G bandwidth in April. And mainland China has also designated that bandwidth for the 5G service.

That means Hong Kong has already lagged behind others by up to 20 months.

The explanation by the Communications Authority is far from convincing.

Is our telecom regulation better than that of UK or China, or just more bureaucratic?

Moreover, the Authority even misled the public that the 5G service will be available next year. It said it would offer the 26GHz/28GHz band for telecom operators next year. However, users can only access 5G service within 100 meters of the base station due to limited coverage of the band.

If more widely used 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz band will not be auctioned until the end of next year, the official 5G services won’t be available in Hong Kong until 2021.

It’s even more ridiculous that there will be two huge 5G prohibited zones, covering the entire Tai Po and Ma On Shan, some areas in Sha Tin, Fanling and Sai Kung.

If nearly 1 million people in Hong Kong can’t access 5G service, how can the territory lay claim to being a smart city?

Meanwhile, two leading research institutes, the Hong Kong Science Park and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, are also in the prohibited zone. How embarrassing if the tech start-up firms in Science Park can’t access 5G network?

This might be the worst telecom service development plan I’ve ever seen.

Hopefully, the Chief Executive will urge the regulators to step up efforts in relation to 5G networks and enable the city to catch up with others.

Adapted from an article that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 5

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation honorary chairman

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