Date
22 October 2018
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the proposed spectrum is expected to be assigned to service providers as soon as the first quarter of next year. Photo: HKEJ
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the proposed spectrum is expected to be assigned to service providers as soon as the first quarter of next year. Photo: HKEJ

HK plans spectrum giveaways to launch 5G services by 2020

In a move to speed up 5G development and launch the service in Hong Kong by 2020, the government has proposed to grant high-speed spectrum to mobile service providers almost for free as soon as the first quarter of next year.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) and Communications Authority (CA) jointly announced on Thursday that they have proposed assigning 4,100 megahertz of high-frequency spectrum in the 26 gigahertz (24.25 – 27.5 GHz) and 28 GHz (27.5 – 28.35 GHz) bands, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The move is clearly in response to criticism that Hong Kong has been lagging behind other markets in 5G development.

A public consultation on the proposal began on Thursday and will last until Aug. 22.

A CA spokesman said that together with the 200 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band announced earlier, a total of 4,500 MHz of new spectrum in multiple frequency bands will be made available for use in the fiscal year 2019/20 for the provision of 5G services,

The supply of 4,500 MHz amounts to eight times the existing 552 MHz of spectrum assigned for the provision of public mobile services, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said.

That will make Hong Kong the first economy in the world to release such a significant amount of spectrum to support the development of 5G services and the launch of a new generation of telecommunications services, to capture new market opportunities and facilitate innovative smart city applications powered by 5G services, the CA said.

At a media session, Yau pointed out that the newly added spectrum of high-frequency bands would be important for the government’s smart-city initiative and Internet of Things, the Standard reported.

The high-frequency spectrum would be especially useful for mobile services in small and crowded places where many devices may use 5G at the same time, the newspaper quoted Yau as saying.

The proposed spectrum is expected to be assigned to service providers as soon as the first quarter of next year, Yau said.

The CA also announced an extra supply of 200 MHz of spectrum for the 4.9 GHz and 3.3 GHz bands, in addition to the original 200 MHz of spectrum for the 3.5 GHz band. 

This is obviously in response to criticism by service providers that the ability of high-frequency 5G – 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands – to penetrate through walls is not as good as that of low-frequency 5G.

Chaucer Leung Chung-yin, deputy director-general (telecommunication) of the Office of the CA, said the authority is ready to provide extra 5G spectrum to meet service providers’ demand, although the demand is lower than the supply at the moment.

Francis Fong, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said it is good to see the government responding positively to the industry’s demands by giving away the spectrum for the 3.3 GHz and 4.9 GHz bands.

Hong Kong Telecom and SmarTone, two major service providers, also welcomed the government’s move to fast-track the launch of 5G services in the city.

Hong Kong Telecom said the government is moving towards the right direction and it hopes the government can properly handle all frequency bands.

SmarTone said it is delighted to see the government responding to the industry’s needs, and the company will continue cooperating with the government. It hopes to see more frequency bands provided in the future.

3HK said developing 5G services requires a larger number of frequency bands. The number of actual frequency bands to be used will depend on future 5G developments in the city.

While welcoming the latest government moves, Fong said Hong Kong needs to work faster and more aggressively, noting the case of South Korea where bids for spectrum are open and building 5G infrastructure is already underway.

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TL/JC/CG

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