LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2015, HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s HKT not only expanded its market share after taking over CSL last year, it has streamlined its mobile network, drastically reducing opex, and introduced tools that have changed the user experience. And now it is demoing super fast 1Gb/s technology.

The leader in a four-player market, its acquisition of CSL from Telstra boosted its market share from 12 per cent to 36 per cent.

Alex Arena (pictured), HKT’s executive director and group MD, said it swapped out its entire radio network within 15 months of the acquisition and by the end of the year plans to reduce its cell sites by 35 per cent. “This has led to an amazing saving in opex,” he said.

But that’s not the endgame, which is a single RAN and a single core. That project is targeted for completion by the end of the year.

HKT also moved to put customers in control by creating a dashboard that allows users to understand their usage patterns and to choose things like Wi-Fi or cellular and to make top-ups. “Very simple graphical user interfaces enable them to feel in control and not to face bill shock,” he said

To further simplify things for customers, it has stopped charging for local voice.

Network upgrades
To keep up with data demand, which is increasing at more than 50 per cent per year, the operator is preparing for tri-band carrier aggregation (CA) this year and is planning for four-band CA next year.

Indeed, HKT, together with Huawei, announced today it has demoed a peak download speed of over 1Gb/s using four-band CA. The operator launched two-component CA, offering a theoretical peak download speed of 300Mb/s, and earlier this year demonstrated three-band CA with a peak downlink rate of 450Mb/s.

Hong Kong is a hyper-saturated market, with a mobile penetration rate of about 220 per cent and prices under pressure. Arena said the pressure is not only from the competition, but from a user acceptance point of view as user behaviour changes.

“We’d like to see our service revenue go up like the data service is going up. But it’s not. We’re seeing a plateauing of our service revenue and we’re seeing our cost go up because as data increases we have to keep investing in capex and opex. Therefore, we’re seeing margins squeezed. This is at a time when our traditional services, such as voice, messaging and roaming, are all collapsing,” he said.

Like most operators, its immediate challenge is trying to handle the increase in data consumption and make money, he said.

It launched a range of smart living services, covering things like home automation, entertainment and healthcare. “This is our future, this is what we have to do to serve the customer better,” he said.