Having heard how Chief Executive Carrie Lam answered the questions raised by legislator Charles Peter Mok at a meeting of the Legislative Council last week, I feel obliged to point out some of her misconceptions about 5G mobile technology, which could impede its progress in Hong Kong.
Lam said the Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology led by herself has discussed the launch of 5G service in Hong Kong last week.
I am wondering if the committee has included any expert from telecoms industry. It must be stressed that 5G development is more complicated than 4G, and the competitiveness of Hong Kong in the next five years could be affected if we do not handle this properly.
During the meeting, Lam said: “Hong Kong is at similar pace with other developed economies in developing commercial 5G service.” She even asserted that Hong Kong is leading others in the launch of 26GHz and 28GHz bands.
There is a misunderstanding here. Launching 26GHz and 28GHz bands is not equivalent to launching 5G service.
Take the Government House as an example. If the chief executive wants the building to have access to 5G service using this bandwidth, several base stations have to be installed nearby. Still, the signal could drop when she walks indoors.
Would she be able to accept such network quality?
To have the real 5G, a 3.5GHz band, which gives far better penetration and wider coverage, is a must.
Hong Kong Telecom (06823.HK), Hutchison Telecommunications (00215.HK), China Mobile and even GSM Association all have urged Hong Kong to launch the 3.5GHz spectrum as soon as possible to enable them to offer commercial 5G services.
Both the United Kingdom and mainland China have already auctioned or allocated 3.5GHz spectrum, and South Korea held an auction last week. In the case of Hong Kong, why are we waiting until the end of 2019 before allocating the spectrum?
Lam blamed that “some vested interest groups” for opposing 5G service, and urged legislator Mok to “put public interests first”.
The truth is, none of the industry players is against 5G service. In fact, they are complaining that the government is moving too slowly.
If Hong Kong can’t launch 5G service at the earliest possible time, mobile producers would not be able to launch 5G smartphones in Hong Kong for lack of 5G network. It could deal a heavy blow to the city’s retail industry as well.
If Lam really cares about public interest, she should request the Office of the Communications Authority to auction 3.5GHz spectrum as soon as possible.
Adapted from an article that appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 20
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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