China Unicom weighs up Hong Kong CDMA options

5 Sep 2007

China Unicom has prepared a bid for a CDMA2000 1x mobile licence in Hong Kong, due to be auctioned in late October or early November this year. China Unicom has operated a CDMA network in mainland China for five years, and expressed interest in obtaining a licence in Hong Kong earlier this year; it won a CDMA2000 concession in another Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR), Macau, in October 2006. Interested parties must apply to Hong Kong’s regulator OFTA before 12 October, and the winner can begin providing 1x and 3G 1xEV-DO services from November 2008. Domestic fixed line and broadband providers City Telecom and Wharf T&T, and South Korea’s SK Telecom have also shown interest in obtaining a CDMA2000 licence in Hong Kong, whilst reports by local media have said that Unicom has invited domestic cellco Hutchison (3), as well as City Telecom and Wharf T&T, to launch a joint bid. Sophia Tso, a spokesperson for Unicom’s Hong Kong-listed arm, declined to comment on specific reports, but told the Interfax news agency that the company is open to partnership deals. Hutchison Telecom is the obvious choice for a local partner, as, according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, it is the SAR’s only existing provider of CDMA services, over a 2G IS-95B 800MHz network, launched in 1995, that will be shut down by 19 November 2008 to make way for CDMA2000 services, under orders from the regulator. Rival cellco CSL New World Mobility must also surrender its 800MHz/850MHz frequencies, used for its 2G TDMA network, in operation since 1992. Hong Kong has four existing 3G licensees based on the W-CDMA standard: Hutchison, CSL, PCCW and SmarTone.