China Mobile launches LTE services in Hong Kong
Initiates data roaming deal with mainland China, looks forward to similar offerings for dual-mode LTE
Published: 23 April, 2012
China Mobile is determined to roll out LTE despite the hesitation of its government over new spectrum allocations, and it is using Hong Kong as a spearhead. Its subsidiary in the island territory has announced its own LTE services as well as roaming deals with mainland China, which pave the way for a harmonized 4G service in future.
This is being heavily touted by Mobile even though it will have to use the TDD flavour of LTE in mainland China, and the Ministry of Communications is cautious about dates for opening up specific 4G airwaves. Mobile, which already has extensive trial networks in operation, will meanwhile refarm part of the 1.9GHz spectrum in which its problematic 3G technology, TD-SCDMA, runs. Nokia Siemens recently said it had TD-LTE equipment ready for this band, clearly with an eye on the world's largest cellco by subscriber numbers.
Mobile is integrating its Hong Kong business more tightly as traffic between the territory and the mainland increases. It has announced a new cross-border data sharing plan, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, which gives users a single phone number and data tariff at home and when roaming in the rest of China. There will also be a technical support center in the VIP Lounge at Hong Kong Airport.
And by the end of this year, China Mobile Hong Kong (CMHK) plans to expand its LTE network to cover its whole current footprint, with indoor coverage of 80% promised. Its parent firm has been pressurizing the device vendors to support dual-mode TDD/FDD LTE in all their products and insists that it will extend the roaming deals to 4G at an early stage.
China Mobile, however, saw its shares slide as it disappointed the markets with its first quarter profits. These rose by 3.5% year-on-year to CNY27.8bn ($4.4bn), behind analyst forecasts. Margins were down from 22.7% to 21.8% because of rising competition, the cellco said, citing increased customer acquisition costs and the burden of subsidies.