PCCW and 3 take LTE pre-orders; China Mobile HK offers two LTE handsets, uncapped data

25 Apr 2012

Hong Kong mobile operators Hutchison (3) and PCCW have announced that they are accepting pre-orders from customers for 4G LTE devices whilst both operators prepare to launch commercial services over their fourth-generation networks. The dual announcement came on the eve of China Mobile Hong Kong’s official commercial launch of its LTE network and services today (25 April), which made it the second cellco in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) to introduce 4G after Australian-backed CSL New World Mobility. As reported by TelecomAsia, 3’s customers can now pre-order a range of LTE-enabled devices including the Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC One XL and LG Optimus True HD smartphones as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 at its retail outlets; no monthly pricing plans were announced by 3, although it added it would launch its LTE network ‘very soon’. PCCW on the other hand, announced the immediate availability of the Optimus True HD LTE-ready handset on its network ahead of a full commercial launch of its 4G network, but did not make any promises of initial coverage or service quality; those wishing to obtain the Optimus can sign up for PCCW’s new 4G monthly plan, ‘Ultimate Mobility’, with options of 5GB or 10GB data caps plus top-ups and a free LTE handset or USB modem. PCCW added that its LTE network ‘is being rolled out progressively throughout Hong Kong… A 3G service will be offered in those areas where we do not have 4G network coverage until such time as 4G coverage is available.’ PCCW users can also pre-order the Galaxy S II, One XL and Tab 8.9 devices in addition to a Huawei E398 USB dongle for LTE internet access, which it said would be shipped to customers ‘in early May’. PCCW’s LTE network users will be offered ‘seamless’ connectivity with the telco’s extensive Wi-Fi network. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that in February 2012 PCCW completed a commercial trial of Next Generation Hotspots, which provide seamless authentication and roaming between cellular and Wi-Fi networks; as of that date it had 9,500 Wi-Fi hotspots in service, up from 9,000 reported in December 2011.

GlobalComms says that PCCW and 3 acquired their shared 2.6GHz LTE wireless frequencies via a joint venture, Genius Brand Ltd, which in January 2009 won a technology-neutral Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licence – 6×5MHz in the 2500MHz-2690MHz band. The joint vehicle enables the pair to share 4G infrastructure, although the two ‘Genius’ network operators intend to keep their commercial LTE services completely separate. Subsequently, the database shows that PCCW has gained additional 1800MHz spectrum (June 2009) also earmarked for 4G services, whilst 3 augmented its frequencies with licence auction wins in the 850MHz/900MHz (February 2011) and 2.3GHz (February 2012) bands; both 3 and China Mobile Hong Kong, which also won a 2.3GHz concession, revealed plans to roll out 2.6GHz/2.3GHz FDD/TDD LTE infrastructure.

China Mobile Hong Kong’s LTE services – which launched today in line with the schedule reported last week by CommsUpdate – initially include a choice of two LTE handsets, the LG Optimus True HD and Samsung Galaxy S II. As reported by TelecomAsia, the Chinese mobile giant is offering Hong Kong 4G subscribers three monthly data plans – 500MB costing HKD88 (USD11.30), 1GB (HKD118) or an ‘unlimited’ data usage package for HKD137; the top-tier plan includes a free LTE handset.