China Telecom Macau launches LTE; 3 Macau to follow in mid-December

26 Nov 2015

China Telecom Macau yesterday launched its commercial 4G LTE network as scheduled for its customers including users of its Macau-China ‘1 Card 2 Numbers’ SIM service. The Chinese-backed cellco, the third of Macau’s operators to launch LTE following CTM (October) and SmarTone Macau (earlier this month), claimed that at launch its LTE network had 95% outdoor coverage of the Special Administrative Region (SAR), higher than its earlier pledge of around 70% coverage by year’s end. The Macau government requires all 4G licensees to achieve ‘100%’ network coverage in 2016.

Samuel Chan, assistant general manager of China Telecom Macau, told Macau Business Daily that the new 4G service ‘could attract more high-end consumers, and in that respect we’ll be observing how the plans can pull in more subscribers,’ while noting that the company is optimistic that LTE could exert a positive influence on its average revenue per user (ARPU). Chan added, however, that the operator was pressured by operating costs mainly due to heavy leased line costs on top of the CAPEX involved in the launch. Dominant fixed network provider CTM’s only licensed competitor in the leased line market, MTel, is still in the process of expanding its underground fibre network throughout Macau, and Chan stated: ‘We’ve leased lines from both CTM and MTel, but as CTM has richer resources – inclusive of its underground network coverage – more of the lines we’ve leased are from them.’

On the same day as China Telecom Macau’s LTE launch, Hutchison Macau (3) declared that its 4G network will be up and running by mid-December, covering ‘more than 90% of outdoor areas.’ Hong Kong-backed 3 Macau said it began FDD-LTE radio access network construction immediately after 4G licensing in March 2015 in partnership with Chinese technology provider ZTE, which has also upgraded its core network, using equipment compatible with 3’s existing 3G infrastructure. 3 added that customers can expect fast and stable download speeds up to 112Mbps, and 37.5Mbps for uploading, on 15MHz of paired spectrum. ‘Clear and smooth’ HD VoLTE voice functionality will follow ‘soon’. Ho Wai Ming, 3 Macau’s CEO, said: ‘We have invested more than MOP300 million [USD36.65 million] to develop this 4G LTE network’, adding that 3’s range of new user packages were designed to encourage migration to the 4G platform.