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SAR Wars 4G: cellcos do battle over LTE

4 May 2012

4G competition is set to heat up in Hong Kong as PCCW Mobile and Hutchison Telephone Company (3) both announced the official launch of their Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks on Wednesday. The two operators, which have deployed LTE in the 2600MHz band via their shared infrastructure venture Genius Brand, recently announced the availability of pre-ordered LTE devices, and this week introduced commercial packages for 4G users, with differing marketing strategies. The launches were the third and fourth LTE networks to become available in the Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR), after CSL and China Mobile. TelecomAsia reports that 3 is offering five monthly data plans for LTE smartphone users, with an entry-level price of HKD168 (USD21) for 300MB, ranging up to HKD418 for unlimited data and a free LTE handset. Customers switching from other networks can also choose from five differently monthly plans costing between HKD118 (400MB) to HKD358 (unlimited with inclusive airtime allocation); 3 also launched four specific packages for tablet users and two data plans for 4G USB dongle users. Amy Lung, COO of 3 Hong Kong, said that the 4G plans are HKD20-HKD30 higher than the average 3G plan cost, and claimed that the operator wanted to avoid a 4G price war, so was therefore ‘offering a variety of different tariff plans to meet different demands from customers.’ Lung also announced that 3’s LTE network initially covers ‘around 90% of all major areas in Hong Kong’, while the company aims to expand 4G coverage to a similar blanket footprint as its 3G network by the third quarter of this year. Simultaneously, PCCW Mobile has launched a commercial LTE package offering 10GB of data per month for an average monthly cost of HKD176 (provided with SIM card only) or HKD343 (which includes an LTE smartphone), with customers obliged to sign up for a 30-month contract. Both cellcos are bundling in unlimited public Wi-Fi access to all data plans.

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